RASNZ Electronic Newsletter August 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 188

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Bruce Slee
2. Three Auckland Events
3. The Solar System in September
4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought
5. The Science of Pluto
6. Variable Star News
7. 2016 Conference Report - Part 2
8. Leap Second on 2016 December 31
9. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration
10. Mars's Moons from Giant Impact?
11. Dark Matter Not Found by LUX
12. MeerKAT's First Light
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Quotes

1. Bruce Slee

Virginia Kilborn, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia reports in an email received this morning:

"It is with much sadness I relay the news of the passing of ASA Foundation member Bruce Slee. Many of the community will have known Bruce, through his outstanding contribution to Australian astronomy.

Bruce's colleague Elaine Sadler had the following words to say on his passing: Very saddened to report that our colleague Bruce Slee died last night at the age of 92. Bruce's passing comes only a day after the workshop "A Celebration: Bruce Slee and 70 Years of Radio Astronomy" that we held in Sydney to celebrate his long career.

Bruce was one of the pioneers of radio astronomy, and his 1949 Nature paper (with co-authors John Bolton and Gordon Stanley) announced the optical identification of the radio sources Centaurus A (NGC 5128), Virgo A (M87) and Taurus A (the Crab nebula). He continued to be active in astronomical research well into his 90s, and his most recent paper was published only a few months ago.

Bruce's grand-daughter Belinda has sent the following message: "I was so proud of my grandfather when I saw that the workshop was being held. I had no idea but then again he often didn't tell us about these things as he is such a humble person. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away tonight in hospital. It has come very unexpectedly for us. Obviously at this stage we have no idea of any funeral arrangements we are just trying to get over the shock of it.

I know there are many people who would like to know of his passing so if you can please let them know it would be much appreciated."

Our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Bruce."

Several New Zealanders were involved with Bruce's research on flare stars. Locals monitored the stars, notably Proxima Centauri, in the visual while Bruce listened for radio noise made during flares.

2. Three Auckland Events

Three upcoming Auckland Astronomical Society events:

31st August - Deadline for the 2016 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition entries. See July Newsletter, No.187, Item 3, for details.

12th September - "Life, the Universe and Something: Is there something else out there?", a public talk and panel with some great panellists.

8th October - 2016 Burbidge Dinner. Our guest speaker is Doug Simons from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. The early bird discount is available to RASNZ & other Society members

The full text and details are at https://www.astronomy.org.nz/new/public/events.aspx

-- Andrew Buckingham

3. The Solar System in September

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) until the start of NZDT (UT + 13 hours) on Sunday 25 September at 2 am when clocks should be put forward 1 hour.

The southern spring equinox is on September 23 at 2:22 am.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in September

                       September  1  NZST               September 30  NZDT
               Morning       evening          morning       evening
SUN:         rise: 6.43am,  set: 5.58pm     rise: 6.54am,  set: 7.27pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.18am, ends: 6.24pm   starts: 6.29am, ends: 7.53pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.46am, ends: 6.56pm   starts: 5.56am, ends: 8.26pm
 Astro:    starts: 5.14am, ends: 7.28pm   starts: 5.23am, ends: 9.00pm

September phases of the moon (times as shown by Guide)

          New moon:      September  1 at  9.03 pm (09:03 UT)
  First quarter: September  9 at 11.49 am (11:49 UT)
  Full moon:     September 17 at  7.05 am (Sep 16, 19:05 UT)
  Last quarter   September 23 at  9.56 pm (09:56 UT)

The planets in September 2016

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter start the month as a close group low to the west after sunset. Mercury will disappear after a few days and Jupiter after a few more days as they move into conjunction with the Sun.

Saturn and Mars remain prominent throughout the evening in the vicinity of Antares.

Mercury Venus and Jupiter

Mercury starts September as an evening object setting an hour and forty-five minutes after the Sun on the 1st. That evening, three- quarters of an hour after sunset, the planet at magnitude 1.4, will be almost due west and some 10° above the horizon. Finding it will be made easier by the presence of Venus 6.5° to its right and a little higher. Jupiter will also be present below Venus and slightly to its left.

Two evenings later the moon will join the group with the thin crescent of the two day old moon between Venus and Jupiter.

Over the next few nights Mercury will rapidly get lower in the evening sky to disappear in the twilight. On the 13th it is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and the Sun prior to becoming a morning object. Towards the end of September, Mercury will rise about half an hour earlier than the Sun so remaining more or less unobservable.

Jupiter will also continue to get lower in the evening sky to be at conjunction on the far side of the Sun on the 26th. It will then be 5.45AU, 8.15 million km beyond the Sun.

Venus on the other hand will get a little higher in the evening sky, setting just over two and a half hours after the Sun on the 30th.

MARS and SATURN will also be in the evening sky forming a fairly close group with Antares at the beginning of the month. During September Mars will move away from Antares while the much slower moving Saturn will remain about 6° from the star.

Mars starts September in Scorpius, joins Saturn in Ophiuchus on the 3rd but moves on into Sagittarius on the 22nd. The moon, near first quarter, will join the two planets in Ophiuchus on September 9.

Outer Planets

URANUS, at magnitude 5.7, is in Pisces. By the end of September it will rise just over an hour after the Sun sets making it observable late evening.

NEPTUNE is at opposition on September 2 when it will be 4330 million km, almost 29 astronomical units, from the Earth. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.4 is also in the evening sky during September setting well after midnight. The planet remains in Sagittarius some 1.5° from the magnitude 2.9 star pi Sgr and less than half a degree from the magnitude 3.7 star omega Sgr.

Minor Planets

(1) CERES is in Cetus during September and brightens from magnitude 8.4 to 7.8 making it the brightest asteroid. It is at its best as a morning object, although it will rise close to 10 pm on the 1st and close to 9 pm on the 30th.

(18) MELPOMENE is also in Cetus and close to Ceres, the two being less than a degree apart between September 6 and 10. Melpomene starts the month at magnitude 9.0 and ends it at 8.3, similar to Vesta.

(2) PALLAS, in the evening sky, starts September at magnitude 9.3 in Equuleus. It moves into Aquarius on the 26th, dimming a little to 9.7 by the end of the month.

(4) VESTA rises close to 4 am on September 1, remaining in Gemini throughout the month. On the morning of the 3rd it will be only 10 arc-minutes from the 4th magnitude star zeta Gem. The asteroid brightens slightly during the month from magnitude 8.5 to 8.3. By the end of September it will rise about 3.40 am NZDT.

(11) Parthenope is another asteroid which brightens during September, from magnitude 9.8 to 9.2 when at opposition at the end of the month. It is also in Cetus although over 20° from Ceres and Melpomene.

-- Brian Loader

4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought

Lloyd Esler is looking for a replica spacecraft capsule that is capable of accommodating a child. No, not the last desperate hope of a harassed parent, but an educational item suitable for taking around schools.

Anyone with suggestions please contact Lloyd Esler This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph 03 213 0404.

5. The Science of Pluto

The RASNZ Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture guest this year was Prof Michael Person from the MIT Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. He was talking about his research over a number of years into Pluto´s atmosphere using observations of occultations of stars by the disc of the planet. In June 2015 another occultation was occurring and this was close to the time of the fly-pass of Pluto by the New Horizons probe so of great importance in providing comparative observations.

Person first gave a short history of previous attempts at observations which have had mixed success. For instance the immediate past observation to the current one had very thorough preparation, with three large telescopes on different continents booked to maximise success; as the event approached two sites were clouded out and at the very last moment the cloud rolled in on the third. This was a great incentive to obtain observing time on the NASA SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infra-red Astronomy) flying observatory. This observatory consists of a number of instruments fitted into a Boeing 747SP aircraft and in 2015 was scheduled to spend five weeks in Christchurch observing the southern sky and the Pluto event. The planning for the event and the description of the flight path across the southern ocean made for some fascinating background to the observations.

The maximum temperature of Pluto's atmosphere recorded was 115 K (-158 C). There appears to be haze in the lower atmosphere and the atmosphere is oblate. Along with the talk were some pictures from New Horizons and a short video of the SOFIA operation from inside the plane.

The talk was rounded off with the hopes for future research on the environment of the outer solar system and the bodies that populate it.

This was a great lecture with up-to-date astronomical information and with a NZ connection. Thanks are due to the RASNZ Lecture Trust Inc. organising Committee for the calibre of the lecturers they are providing. Also to the Horowhenua Astronomical Society for a very good venue for the event at the Horowhenua Council Chamber.

Postscript. A clear and comprehensive article by Brian Loader on the Australasian ground-based Pluto occultation observations is printed in the 2016 June issue of Southern Stars.

-- Alan Baldwin

6. Variable Star News

Long Period Variable RS Eri

The lead story in the AAVSO Aug 2016 newsletter discusses the light curve of the Long Period Variable (LPV) RS Eridani. This star has been observed in earnest for about 30 years and has primarily been observed by Andrew Pearce of Australia. The star ranges between mag 7.9 and 12.8 with a period of 299 days. RS Eri appears to have recently developed a hump on the ascending arm of the light curve, a feature which has not been detected previously in this star. Observations of further cycles should confirm whether this is an isolated incident or now a regular feature of this star´s light output. An analysis of the period indicates that it may have decreased by about nine days over the 30 year interval, but again a longer time interval is required to have confidence in the trend. Increased attention to this star is warranted.

LPVs with humps are of considerable interest because of the constraints they place on star models. A short list of target stars is given on the AAVSO web-site Long Period Variable Section page. (A more detailed list is given in a catalogue of 73 dual maxima and hump variables given on a subsidiary "LPV humps" page). These pages are accessible to all observers, not just AAVSO members.

Nova Announcements

A nova in Sagittarius, Nova Sgr 2016 No. 2 was discovered 8th August by Koichi Nishiyama (Kurume, Japan) and Fujio Kabashima (Miyaki, Japan) (CBET 4295); All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) (K. Z. Stanek et al., ATel #9343). V (visual) observations in the days after discovery were around magnitude 12.

A chart for Nova Sgr 2016 No. 2 can be created on the AAVSO web-site using the Variable Star Plotter (VSP) and the wording exactly as given here.

Nova Scorpii 2016 (July newsletter) has been assigned the permanent GCVS designation V1655 Sco. (from Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, No 9282, 2016 Aug 08).

-- Alan Baldwin for Variable Stars South

7. 2016 Conference Report - Part 2

Concluding Orlon Petterson's report on the RASNZ Conference in Napier over 20-22 May.

Sunday started with Sarang Shah speaking on "Finding lonely planets with the KMTNet microlensing survey" a new Korean network of telescopes starting microlensing work which forms the basis of his PhD. ALex Li talked about his work in identifying "Eclipsing binaries in the MOA database" and separating out these systems from the various variable stars and other poorly classified objects. Ed budding gave a presentation on "Basic queries in astrobiology: where do we begin, and when will it end?" looking at the chemical nature of the precurors to life as we understand it from a theoretical perspective and likely candidate compounds. Brian Loader followed up with "Lunar occultations of double stars" highlighting the recent advances in finding closely separated binary systems which have to date escaped detection and the importance of improved lunar limb mapping.

Orlon Petterson opened the next session with a talk aimed squarely at the SWAPA students attending on "Educational and research tools in Astronomy" looking at the software in use at NZ universities for teaching and skills they would need to address when moving into research astronomy. Grant Christie spoke on "Auckland Astronomy - Future directions, opportunities and challenges" the latest on what's been happening at Stardome observatory and the work of those in the Auckland city area. New vice-president of RASNZ, Nick Rattenbury looked at "Recent results from the MOA collaboration" including the observations being made on the 1.8m at UC Mt John Observatory, planet detections and the various modelling approaches being undertaken to understand the observed light curves. Newly elected President John Drummond with his recently awarded MSc in Astronomy looked at "Deeply imaging interacting galaxies to detect tidal features" where additional galaxy interactions could be extracted from deep imaging of galaxies and interpretations of the observed features in the faint extents of those galaxies.

The final session was led by new Fellow, Jennie McCormack on "The role of chance in astronomical discoveries from Farm Cove Observatory" which she gave a background talk on the events leading to her observatory and the unexpected she's observed from her location in Auckland and the opportunities that arose. A lesson for our SWAPA students on giving things a go even if you're not sure of the outcome. Mike Mackrill gave a somewhat light hearted talk on "It's life Jim... Aliens as depicted in film and television" showing the strange and somewhat simplistic view taken on what life in the rest of the universe might be like and some discussion on what might be a little more realistic.

Lin Xiao spoke on "Interpreting nebular line emission of star-forming regions with BPASS models" and the difficulty in how star forming regions evolve and the observed emission generated between models and observations. David Huijser detailed "Baysian inference of galaxy morphology using reversible jump MCMC" a highly mathematical approach based on Monte-Carlo methods of analysis to model galaxy structure.

The conference then closed with Peter Jaquiery inviting everyone to the next conference to be held in Dunedin at the Otago Museum in May 2017. That conference to bring back as many of the students that have attended conference in the last few years to interact with the SWAPA and university students.

Throughout the conference ASTRONZ had a display of a selection of the wares they have available with excellent discounts. They graciously donated several pairs of binoculars which were gifted or auctioned during the conference. Their display was a hive of activity throughout the weekend and I'm sure they had more than a few people arranging purchases.

In conclusion the 2016 conference was a great success and an attendance of 94+ people makes it one of the most well attended conferences in recent times. Much credit goes to the Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society and the LOC in providing a great venue and turning on a memorable event, not to mention the usual fabulous Hawkes Bay weather! I hope everyone who attended enjoyed themselves and for those who couldn't, remember the next conference is in Dunedin in May 2017. Start your planning to attend now! I'm sure we'll see them turning on quite a conference.

-- Orlon Petterson

8. Leap Second on 2016 December 31

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, Paris Observatory, advise that a positive leap second will be introduced at the end of December 2016. The sequence of dates of the UTC second markers will be:

  1. December 31, 23h 59m 59s
  2. December 31, 23h 59m 60s
  3. January 1, 0h 0m 0s
The difference between UTC and the International Atomic Time TAI is:
 from 2015 July 1, 0h UTC, to 2017 January 1 0h UTC : UTC-TAI = - 36s
 from 2017 January 1, 0h UTC, until further notice : UTC-TAI = - 37s

Website http://gdso.webs.com

-- From the official announcement, forwarded by Howard Barnes.

9. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration

Norman Dickie of Gore, an RASNZ member for 71 years, turns 100 on Sunday 2nd October. Celebrations are planned over the weekend of October 1st and 2nd. Details were in the July Newsletter, No.187, Item 7.

Please RSVP for the Saturday afternoon tea and evening BBQ by Monday 26th September for catering purposes. No RSVP is necessary for the Sunday event at the St Andrews Church as this is an open event where hundreds of people are expected.

Contact Ross Dickie, phone (03) 208 9623, mobile 027 208 9623, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for RSVP and further details.

10. Mars's Moons from Giant Impact?

Where did the two natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? For a long time, their shape suggested that they were asteroids captured by Mars. However, their circular orbits around Mars's equator contradicts this hypothesis. Two independent and complementary studies provide an answer to this question. One of these studies, published in The Astrophysical Journal and predominantly conducted by researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Aix- Marseille Université, rules out the capture of asteroids. It shows that the only scenario compatible with the surface properties of Phobos and Deimos is that of a giant collision.

In the second study, a team of French, Belgian, and Japanese researchers used cutting-edge digital simulations to show how these satellites were able to form from the debris of a gigantic collision between Mars and a proto-planet one-third its size. This research, which is the result of collaboration between researchers from Université Paris Diderot and Royal Observatory of Belgium, in collaboration with the CNRS, Université de Rennes 1 and the Japanese Institute ELSI, was published on July 4 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The origin of the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, has long been a mystery. Due to their small size and irregular shape they strongly resemble asteroids, but no one could understand how Mars could have captured them and made them into satellites with almost circular and equatorial orbits. According to a competing theory, toward the end of its formation Mars suffered a giant collision with a proto-planet: but why did the debris from such an impact create two small satellites instead of one enormous moon, like the Earth's? A third possibility is that Phobos and Deimos formed at the same time as Mars, which would require that they have the same composition as their planet, although their low density seems to contradict this hypothesis. The two independent studies have now solved the puzzle: the Martian moons must have arisen from a giant collision.

One of the studies gives a complete and coherent scenario for the formation of Phobos and Deimos. They would have been created following a collision between Mars and a primordial body one-third its size, 100 to 800 million years after the beginning of the Mar's formation. According to the researchers, the debris from this collision formed a very wide disk around Mars, made up of a dense inner part composed of molten matter, and a very thin outer part primarily of gas.

In the inner part of this disk there formed a moon one thousand times the size of Phobos, which has since disappeared. The gravitational interactions created in the outer disk by this massive object apparently caused the gathering of debris to form other smaller, more distant moons. After a few thousand years, Mars was surrounded by a group of approximately ten small moons and one enormous moon. A few million years later, once the debris disk had dissipated, the tidal effects of Mars brought most of these satellites back down onto the planet, including the very large moon. Only the two most distant small moons, Phobos and Deimos, remained.

In a second study researchers ruled out the possibility of a capture on the grounds of statistical arguments based on the compositional diversity of the asteroid belt. They found that the spectra of Phobos and Deimos are incompatible with that of the primordial matter that formed Mars (meteorites such as ordinary chondrite, enstatite chondrite and/or angrite). They therefore support the collision scenario. From their spectra they deduced that the satellites are made of fine-grained dust (smaller than a micron).

The very small size of grains on the surface of Phobos and Deimos cannot be solely explained as the consequence of erosion from bombardment by interplanetary dust. The satellites were made of fine- grain material. It would have formed by gas condensation in the outer area of the debris disk, and not from the magma present in the inner part. The formation of Phobos and Deimos from these very fine grains would also be responsible for a high internal porosity, which would explain their surprisingly low density.

The theory of a giant collision, which is corroborated by these two independent studies, could explain why the northern hemisphere of Mars has a lower altitude than the southern hemisphere. The Borealis basin was most probably made by a giant collision, such as the one that in time gave birth to Phobos and Deimos. The theory also helps explain why Mars has two satellites instead of a single one like our Moon, which was also created by a giant collision. This research suggests that the satellite systems that were created depended on the planet's rotational velocity. At the time Earth was rotating very quickly, in less than four hours, whereas Mars turned six times more slowly.

New observations will soon make it possible to know more about the age and composition of Martian moons. Japan's space agency (JAXA) has decided to launch a mission in 2022, named Mars Moons Exploration (MMX), which will bring back samples from Phobos to Earth in 2027. Their analysis could confirm or invalidate this scenario. The European Space Agency (ESA) has planned a similar mission in 2024 in association with the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

Text (PDF): http://www2.cnrs.fr/sites/en/fichier/pr_phobos_deimos_ok.pdf

Related article with images & animation: https://news.cnrs.fr/articles/solved-the-mystery-of-the-martian-moons

-- From a CNRS press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Dark Matter Not Found by LUX

More than a mile underground, where miners once accessed precious ore, sits a 3-foot-tall, dodecagonal cylinder of liquid xenon. The 122 photomultiplier tubes at the container´s top and bottom await the glitter of light that would signal an elusive dark matter shooting through the cylinder and interacting with one of the xenon atoms. But after more than a year of data collecting, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment announced at the Identification of Dark Matter 2016 conference in July that they´re still coming up empty-handed.

Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) are the top candidates for dark matter, the invisible stuff that makes up about 84% of the universe´s matter. By definition, dark matter doesn´t interact with light, nor does it interact via the strong force that holds nuclei together. And while we know it interacts with gravity, that interaction leaves only indirect evidence of its existence, such as its effect on galaxy rotation.

But WIMP theory says dark matter particles should also interact via the weak force, a fundamental force that governs nature on a subatomic level - including the fusion within the Sun. So a WIMP particle should very rarely smash into a heavy nucleus, generating a flash of light. The chance for a direct hit is very, very low, but 350 kilograms of liquid xenon in the LUX experiment should have good odds.

After just three months of operation, in 2013 the LUX experiment had already reported a null result. At the time, the experiment had probed with a sensitivity 20 times that of previous experiments. A new 332-day run began in September 2014, and the preliminary analysis announced last week probes four times deeper than the results before. Yet despite a longer run time, increased sensitivity, and better statistical analysis, the LUX team still hasn´t found any WIMPs.

Simply put: either WIMPs don´t exist at all, or the WIMPs that do exist really, really don´t like interacting with normal matter.

It´s also worth noting that LUX isn´t just looking for WIMPs. The WIMP scenario is the primary one it´s testing, and the one that last week´s announcement focused on. But more results are forthcoming about LUX results on dark matter alternatives, such as axions and axion-like particles.

The non-finding may not win any Nobel Prizes, but in a way it´s great news for physicists. Numerous experiments (such as CDMS II, CoGeNT, and CRESST) had found glimmers of WIMP detections, but none had found results statistically significant enough to be claimed as a real detection. The LUX results have been helpful in ruling out those hints of low-mass WIMPs.

"It turns out there is no experiment we can think of so far that can eliminate the WIMP hypothesis entirely," says Dan McKinsey (University of California, Berkeley). "But if we don't detect WIMPs with the experiments planned in the next 15 years or so . . . physicists will likely conclude that dark matter isn't made of WIMPs."

That´s why - despite not finding any WIMPs this time around - the LUX team continues to work on the next-gen experiment: LUX-ZEPLIN. Its 7 tons of liquid xenon should begin awaiting flashes from dark matter interactions by 2020.

Three years of data from LUX-ZEPLIN will probe WIMP scenarios down to fundamental limits from the cosmic ray background. In other words, if LUX-ZEPLIN doesn´t detect WIMPs, they don´t exist - or they´re beyond our detection capabilities altogether.

-- From an article by Monica Young on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the original with pictures and graphs at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/no-dark-matter-from-lux-experiment/

For a description of the experiment and theory on 51 slides see http://luxdarkmatter.org/LUX_dark_matter/Talks_files/LUX_NewDarkMatterSearchResult_332LiveDays_IDM2016_160721.pdf

12. MeerKAT's First Light

South Africa´s MeerKAT radio telescope just released its first image showing more than 1,300 galaxies in the distant universe - and that´s with only a quarter of its radio dishes operational. This is an almost 20-fold increase from the 70 galaxies in this field known prior to MeerKAT. The high-resolution images also reveal nearby cosmic phenomena happening just 200 million light years away, including a massive black hole that´s launching jets of matter at close to the speed of light.

The telescope, a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is being commissioned in phases to allow verification of the system. This enables scientists to quickly fix any technical issues, as well as conduct some initial science exploration. The first 16 dishes of the telescope array make up Array Release 1 (AR1). The eventual 64 dishes are expected to be in place by late 2017.

Once complete, MeerKAT will encompass 190,000 square feet (17,651 square meters) of the region outside Carnarvon, a small town on the Northern Cape of South Africa. The area is sparsely populated, but close enough to Cape Town to minimize construction and maintenance costs.

Ultimately, MeerKAT will be integrated into the Square Kilometre Array, which when complete will be the world´s largest radio telescope. The international effort will result in a telescope tens of times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the sky than any other radio astronomy facility. Its full array of antennas will be powerful enough to detect very faint radio signals emitted by sources billions of light-years away from Earth.

SKA will be built in two phases starting in 2018. The SKA Mid-Frequency Aperture Array will be located in South Africa and will include MeerKAT´s 64 dishes, as well as another 100-plus dishes that still need to be built, all observing at frequencies from 350 MHz to 14 GHz.

Australia will host SKA´s Low-Frequency Aperture Array, which will consist of about 130,000 dipole antennas observing from 50 to 350 MHz. Together, the arrays will enable astronomers to probe the radio- emitting universe in unprecedented detail. Among other things, SKA will explore the universe´s first stars and galaxies, the role of cosmic magnetic fields, and possibly even life beyond Earth.

We´ve still got some time before SKA becomes fully operational and begins to change the face of radio astronomy, but in the meantime, MeerKAT is joining the ranks of the world´s great scientific instruments.

-- From an article by Ana V. Aceves on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the original with pictures at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/meerkat-in-south-africa-sees-first-light/

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 November 2016. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J. For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

15. Quotes

"The aim of argument or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." -- Joseph Joubert.

"When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason." -- Thucydides. Thucydides describing confirmation bias circa 500 BCE. (The Credible Hulk on Facebook.)

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter July 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 187

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Juno Arrives at Jupiter
2. Horowhenua StellarFest July 29-31
3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition
4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought
5. The Solar System in August
6. Nova Scorpii 2016
7. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration
8. 2016 Conference Report - Part 1
9. A New Dwarf Planet
10. A Three-Sun Planet
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Quote

1. Juno Arrives at Jupiter

After a 5-year-long journey, NASA's Juno probe arrived at its destination and slipped into orbit around Jupiter.

The Juno probe fired its main engine and entered a polar orbit around Jupiter at (Earth receive time) 03:53 on July 5th Universal Time (UT). Juno carried out a scheduled 35-minute-long burn that slowed its velocity by 542 metres per second (1058 km/h), enough to become a captured satellite of Jupiter with an initial 53.5-day orbital period. Arriving at 58 km per second (209,000 km/h) with respect to the planet, Juno also performed the fastest orbital insertion to date.

All the science instruments were turned off during the crucial engine burn. Juno resumed full transmissions to Earth 58 minutes after the thruster lit up, indicating all is well with the spacecraft. At 5.8 astronomical units or 869 million km from Earth, Juno is currently more than 48 light-minutes away, with a corresponding lag time as transmissions reach NASA's worldwide Deep Space Network.

Launched on 5 August 2011, Juno took almost five years and one Earth gravitational assist flyby (on 9 October 2013) to reach Jupiter.

Juno's looping initial orbit keeps it well clear of the most intense charged-particle belt trapped around the planet. It also means that the spacecraft won't return to the planet's immediate vicinity until August 27th. On October 19th, Juno will fire its main engine one final time to drop the spacecraft into a series of tighter, 14-day-long science orbits. Juno also revved its rotation up from two to five revolutions per minute during today's orbital insertion manoeuvre. Spinning the spacecraft allows for stabilization without the use of reaction wheels. The very first spacecraft to explore Jupiter - Pioneers 10 and 11 in the early 1970s - utilized the same approach.

The mission's three major objectives are to study Jupiter's polar magnetosphere, assess the composition of its atmosphere, and probe its deep interior. To accomplish this, the spacecraft must duck under the planet's intense radiation belt and thread a target zone just above its cloud tops.

Juno will plunge closer to the Jovian cloud tops than any mission before, passing just 4,200 km away over the course of 36 orbits. Its instruments will also examine Jupiter's polar regions close up on each successive close pass.

Does Jupiter possess a solid rocky core at its heart, or are those heavy elements dissolved in a sea of metallic hydrogen all the way though? How similar is the source Jupiter's powerful magnetic dynamo to the Sun's? Juno will, for the very first time, sound the interior of our solar system's largest planet in an effort to tell the story of its current state and, perhaps, its origin and role in the formation of the solar system.

"Where is the water?" is a major question that mission scientists expect Juno to answer. NASA's Galileo probe plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere on 7 December 1995 and measured a curious lack of water. Is this paucity the norm for Jupiter's upper atmosphere, or did the probe merely hit a dry patch? Either answer has enormous implications for models of planetary formation.

The Juno probe will also test frame-dragging, as predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, as it maps the gravitational field of Jupiter.

To carry out its mission, Juno carries a suite of instruments:

JunoCam: The craft's sole camera will provide close-up images of the polar regions of Jupiter during each flyby. As part of an online outreach campaign, members of the public will help choose image targets for JunoCam, coordinated with an amateur observer campaign. Taking images from a spinning spacecraft is difficult, and JunoCam overcomes this using a "push broom" imaging technique, taking consecutive thin strips of images during each spin and later building them up into a single comprehensive image.

Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS) and Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM): These imagers will study the compositions of clouds and hazes in Jupiter's uppermost atmosphere at ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, respectively.

Radio and Plasma Wave Sensor (Waves), Jovian Energetic particle Detector Instrument (JEDI), and the Jovian Auroral Distribution Experiment (JADE): These detectors will study the interrelationship between Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetic field and chronicle auroral activity on Jupiter.

Magnetometers and Gravity Science instrument (MAG and GS): Their goal is to map the planet's magnetic and gravitational field. Microwave Radiometers (MWR): Able to penetrate deep into Jupiter's atmosphere at microwave wavelengths, MWR will map the depth and extent of atmospheric circulation. MWR will also measure the amount of water present in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Juno's instruments are contained within an enormous titanium vault, in an effort to shield them from Jupiter's extensive radiation belts. Even then, orbital precession will eventually drag the spacecraft into the deadly belts, ending the mission.

Juno is also the first spacecraft to explore the outer solar system powered not by a plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), like those used on the Voyagers , Galileo, and Cassini, but by solar energy. The three solar arrays powering Juno are enormous, spanning 20 m - roughly the size of a basketball court. At five times Earth's distance from the Sun, solar energy in the vicinity of Jupiter is 1/25th of what Earth receives. Juno's enormous solar panels generate about 500 watts of energy, enough to power a small kitchen refrigerator. Half of that power goes simply to heating the core of the spacecraft.

With those large solar panels, the Juno probe must carefully thread Jupiter's powerful magnetosphere, avoiding a torrent of electrical current that sometimes reaches millions of amps. One encounter with the powerful Io plasma torus linking the innermost Galilean moon with Jupiter would doom the mission.

Radiation exposure is a very real threat to the mission. On Earth, we're exposed to about a third of a rad a year at sea level from natural background sources. Over its 1½ years of operation, Juno will be exposed to an amazing 20,000,000 rads, a lethal dose for humans many times over.

The end of mission comes on 20 February 2018, when engineers will direct Juno to burn up in Jupiter's atmosphere, avoiding any future contamination of Jupiter's large moons.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to flyby Jupiter in 1973. Other Jupiter flyby alumni include Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and 2, Cassini, New Horizons, and Ulysses. To date, Galileo was the only other mission that entered orbit around Jupiter, operating from 1995 to 2003.

-- From an article by David Dickinson on Sky & Telescope's webpage.

For the full text and images see http://click.e.skyandtelescope.com/?qs=b1f48361929dd83ee32365862d9a0e217614bb563e347abb50f675c237311742e47e31288b74f9bc.

More information on the Juno mission: http://www.nasa.gov/juno Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno http://www.twitter.com/NASAJuno

2. Horowhenua StellarFest July 29-31

Steve Chadwick, President, Horowhenua Astronomical Society, writes:

This is just to let you know that our annual StellarFest is being held on the weekend 29th-31st July. Information and how to book can be found here: http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

We are still putting the programme together so please keep checking back for updates. For the best accommodation please book early.

3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition

Calling all Astrophotographers, it's that time of year again, time to get your entries in for the 2016 Harry Williams Astrophotography competition, this year we are very lucky to have Phil Plait the "Bad Astronomer" as our judge, Phil is best known for debunking misconceptions in Astronomy but is also a well-known Astrophotography enthusiast, he received his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Virginia in 1994, during the 1990s, Plait worked with the COBE satellite and later was part of the Hubble Space Telescope team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, working largely on the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. In 1995, he published observations of a ring of circumstellar material around a supernova (SN 1987A), which led to further study of explosion mechanisms in core-collapse supernovae.

This year the Solar System and Miscellaneous/Artistic categories will be sponsored by the Australian Sky and Telescope magazine, winners of these two categories will receive a 12 month subscription to the magazine as well as a cash prize, in addition to the usual Auckland Astronomical Society certificate all entries that either win a category or are highly commended will also have their image printed in the Australian Sky and Telescope magazine, further prizes and sponsors to be announced soon.

This year, the entries to the Harry Williams Astrophotography competition must be in by the 31st of August, so please don't delay to get those entries in, as we can't accept late entries, entry forms and the competition rules can found on the front page of the Auckland Astronomical Society's website http://www.astronomy.org.nz/. The winners of the competition will be announced at the Auckland Astronomical Societies annual Burbidge Dinner which will be held on Saturday 8th October at Alexandra Park. The Guest speaker will be Dr Doug Simons, Executive Director of the Canada-France-Hawai'i Telescope (CFHT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii so it should make for a great night out! We are looking forward to seeing all your entries and good luck with the competition.

-- Jonathan Green's note to nzastronomers Yahoo group.

4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought

Lloyd Esler is looking for a replica spacecraft capsule that is capable of accommodating a child. No, not the last desperate hope of a harassed parent, but an educational item suitable for taking around schools.

Lloyd is also looking for a set of Cornflakes space-themed plastic toys from the 1960s. He remembers Sputnik, Telstar and the Mercury capsule.

Anyone with suggestions please contact Lloyd Esler This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. P. 03 213 0404.

5. The Solar System in August

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in august

                          August  1  NZST                  August 31  NZST
                Morning      evening           morning      evening
SUN:         rise: 7.26am,  set: 5.28pm     rise: 6.45am,  set: 5.57pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.59am, ends: 5.56pm   starts: 6.20am, ends: 6.23pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.26am, ends: 6.29pm   starts: 5.48am, ends: 6.55pm
 Astro:    starts: 5.53am, ends: 7.01pm   starts: 5.16am, ends: 7.27pm

June phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          New moon:      August  3 at  8.45 am (Aug  2, 20:45 UT)
  First quarter: August 11 at  6.21 am (Aug 10, 18:21 UT)
  Full moon:     August 18 at  9.27 pm (09:27 UT)
  Last quarter   August 25 at  3.41 pm (03:41 UT)

The planets in august

August is a month of planetary conjunctions. All the planets are visible at some time in the evening sky.

Mercury, venus and jupiter, early evening objects

Towards the end of August a fine grouping of the three planets will be visible in the early evening sky as the sky darkens following sunset. Between August 18 and 22 Mercury will be about 4° to the left of Jupiter. On the 18th Jupiter will be a little higher then Mercury. Over the next few evenings Jupiter will move down and become the lower of the two. Venus will be a few degrees below the pair.

Over the following evenings Venus will close in on Jupiter. On the 27th it will be 42 arc minutes below Jupiter, the following evening Venus is 19 minutes above Jupiter. Mercury, at magnitude 0.9 nearly 3 magnitudes fainter than Jupiter, will 5° to the left of the pair and a little higher.

At their closest just before midday, NZST, on the 28th, the two planets will be about 4 arc minutes apart. In NZ skies they are about 32° up at an azimuth of 52°, i.e. 52° from north round to east. In a clear sky Venus should be readily visible in binoculars or a small telescope. Having found Venus, Jupiter, about 2 magnitudes fainter, should be visible at least in a small telescope. The pair will be some 22° from the Sun.

On the 29th Venus is at its closest to Mercury. The two will be some 5° apart with Jupiter 1.3° below Venus. The line from Venus to Jupiter is almost at right angle to the line from Venus to Mercury.

The moon passes the three planets early in the month. For NZ it is closest to Venus on the evening of the 4th, when the very thin crescent moon, Venus and Regulus will form a triangle, just over 2° on each side. The moon is 3° above Mercury on the 5th and half a degree from Jupiter on the 6th. The moon occults both Mercury and Jupiter this month, but neither events are visible from NZ.

For good measure Venus is about a degree from Regulus, magnitude 1.4, on August 5 and 6.

Mars, saturn and antares

Not to be outdone, Mars and Saturn are also in conjunction towards the end of August. They are at their closest on the 24th, with Mars between Saturn and Antares. Mars, brightest at magnitude -0.4, will be 1.8° from Antares, mag 1.0, with Saturn, mag 0.4, in the opposite direction. The three will be easily seen all evening, they don't set until well after midnight.

Mars, moving quite rapidly, starts August in Libra but crosses into Scorpius on the 2nd. Its path takes it between delta and pi Sco (mags 2.3 and 2.9 respectively) on the 9th and 10th. As it passes between Saturn and Antares in the fourth week of August, Mars will cross a corner of Ophiuchus before returning to Scorpius on the 27th.

Saturn, in Ophiuchus, is stationary on the 13th so its position changes very little during the month.

The moon, a day after first quarter will join the group on the 12th. It is closer to Saturn, the two about 4.5° apart during the evening.

Outer planets

URANUS, at magnitude 5.8, is in Pisces. It rises nearly half an hour before midnight on August 1 and by 10 pm later in the month.

NEPTUNE rises at 8am on the 1st and as the Sun sets on the 31st. (Opposition is on September 2). The planet is at magnitude 7.8.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.3 is also in the evening sky during August setting well after midnight. The planet remains in Sagittarius. Late in the month it will be just under half a degree north of the 3.7 magnitude star omega Sgr.

Minor planets

(1) CERES is in Cetus during August and brightens from magnitude 8.9 to 8.4. It is essentially a morning object, although it will rise just after 10 pm on the 31st.

(2) PALLAS starts August at magnitude 9.4 in Pegasus. It then rises at 8pm. Its retrograde motion takes Pallas into Equuleus on August 21 having been at opposition on August 13 at magnitude 9.2.

(4) VESTA rises close to 5 am on August 1. It is in then the most northerly part of Orion some 15° north of Betelgeuse. By the 7th it will have moved on into Gemini. At the end of August, Vesta will rise just before 4am. Its magnitude is 8.5 to 8.4.

-- Brian Loader

6. Nova Scorpii 2016

Nova Scorpii 2016 was discovered by Hideo Nishimura (Kakegawa, Shizuoka-ken, Japan) and reported by S. Nakano, Sumoto, Japan, via CBET 4285). The nova was discovered 2016 June 10.629 UT. The discovery magnitude was 12.4.

At the time this newsletter is being published the outburst will be about 40 days old. The nova is fading steadily, so in future months observers with larger aperture telescopes are encouraged to follow the event. At time of publication the nova is approximately Visual 13.7

Information on some early observations of Nova Sco 2016 - colour band observations and spectral characteristics indicating a Fe II nova - are given in the latest Variable Star South (VSS) newsletter. This issue of the newsletter will be posted on the VSS website at the time of the publication of the RASNZ newsletter or soon after. Go to http://www.variablestarssouth.org/, At top of window, Menu Bar:- Community, Select Newsletters. Alternatively use the Search box, Newsletter.

-- Alan Baldwin (RASNZ, VSS)

7. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration

Norman Dickie of Gore, an RASNZ member for 71 years, turns 100 on Sunday 2nd October. Celebrations are planned over the weekend.

The first will be on Saturday 1st at Washpool farm where Norman was born, brought up and farmed. The farmhouse owners have kindly agreed to host an afternoon tea and an evening BBQ in honour of Norman. This gathering is open to friends and relatives who come afar, including astronomers, and invited locals. The 8 km drive to the farm departs from the St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Ardwick Street at 2:00pm. This is an opportunity for those outside the Gore district to meet Norman personally as this might not be possible on Norman´s big day on Sunday. Between the afternoon tea and evening BBQ there will be a tour of Norman´s former farm.

On Sunday morning there will be a church service at 10:00am (not just for Norman) at St Andrews. Afterward a finger-food lunch will be held in the church hall. Then back into the church again for a musical concert and tributes to Norman. This is an open public event for anyone keen to attend Norman´s 100th.

Please RSVP for the Saturday afternoon tea and evening BBQ by Monday 26th September for catering purposes. No RSVP is necessary for the Sunday event at the St Andrews Church as this is an open event where hundreds of people are expected.

Contact Ross Dickie, phone (03) 208 9623, mobile 027 208 9623, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for RSVP and further details.

8. 2016 Conference Report - Part 1

The weekend of 20-22 May 2016 saw the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand have its annual conference in Napier. Originally planned to be held again in the War Memorial Conference Centre after the success of the last Napier Conference, changes were forced when earthquake strengthening work ruled out its availability. The conference was shifted to the nearby Museum Theatre Gallery and to Napier Boys' High School for the Saturday night Banquet dinner.

The Hawkes Bay region turned on some really lovely weather with warm days throughout the conference.

Prior to the conference opening there were the usual round of meetings with the outgoing Council meeting for the last time before handing over to the newly elected council on Sunday. Of special note were the standing down of Rory O'Keefe who had been Secretary of the Society for six years and Gordon Hudson who was relinquishing his position as council member while remaining the society archivist.

The Affiliated Societies later met for their discussions while the Standing Conference Committee held a parallel meeting.

The conference was opened by Professor John Hearnshaw as RASNZ president and Gary Sparks, Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society president. The Honourable Stuart Nash, MP for Napier then gave an opening address. This was notable for his showing off his antique Astrolabe from the Middle East and his plea for some help in understanding how it was supposed to work!

Following on from this Professor Sergei Gulyaev (AUT) gave his presentation on the recent "Discovery of the source of high-energy neutrinos" which had recently been published in Nature. This year's Fellows' Lecture was given by the most recently elected Fellow Brian Loader. Speaking on "Pluto, 2015 June 29" he discussed his interest in occultations and the results from the Pluto occultation which occurred just prior to the arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft early last July. The occultation passed directly across NZ and gave some surprising results, among which were a still thickening atmosphere, new structure to the atmosphere, an updated diameter measurement and a final accurate position of Pluto to help refine the flyby.

Saturday morning started with a Poster mini-session with John Drummond speaking briefly about the astrophotography competition and Ana Snjegota on "Detecting forward scattering radio signals from atmospheric meteors using low-cost software defined radio". Ashna Sharan spoke on her "Microlensing modelling using nested sampling" to analyses MOA observational data, leading a session largely featuring Auckland University. Auckland undergraduate students Georgie Taylor and Mason Ng spoke jointly on "Modelling the spectra of hot stars". John Bray spoke on his ongoing work regarding "Is the link between the observed velocities of neutron stars and their progenitors a simple mass relationship?"

We then had presentations from two of the "Students with a Passion for Astronomy" (SWAPA) give their own presentations which were of a very high standard. Anushka Kharbanda spoke about quasars and Annabelle Ritchie talked about her work towards radio observations of Jupiter and broadcasting over the internet.

The next session started with Sergei Gulyaev informing us on "Activies at the radio astronomical observatory at Warkworth" and detailing the recent developments there.

Warwick Kissling gave us all an update on "Is the Solar system stable?" looking at the chaotic nature of the planets' orbits. Gary Sparks showed us "Halley's Comet World Tour: A Philatelic Odyessy" a whirlwide tour of stamps he'd collected.

This year's conference had as its guest keynote speaker a former University of Canterbury astronomy student Dr Michele Bannister from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She spoke on the "New Discoveries in the Outer Solar System" detailing her research in the field of bodies in the outer solar system and the now substantial observations recording many new objects in the Kuiper belt and beyond. After the conclusion of the conference Michele gave a public lecture on "Pluto: Once a Point of Light, Now a World" which was very well attended and covered all the latest on what had been sent back and so far learned from the New Horizons probe flyby of the Pluto system.

After lunch Maria Pozza gave a skype talk on "New Zealand and the need for Space Law". John Hearnshaw spoke on his work with IAU commission C4 and UNESCO "The Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative" looking at preserving the world's significant astronomical sites and observatories. Bethany Jones from Hawkes Bay gave us her medical insight into "The effects of space travel on human physiology" detailing the many issues and challenges that we still face in manned space exploration.

Liam McClelland spoke on "Helium stars: Towards an understanding of Wolf-Rayet Evolution". The session was closed out by two more SWAPA students, with an impassioned talk by Finlay Mably on the Young Stars astronomy group in Christchurch and Joshua Daglish spoke on his experiences in astronomy to date and a visit he made to Mt John Observatory.

Following on was the AGM where the new Council was elected, Jennie McCormick (MNZM) was elected to the Fellowship of the Society and Professor Gerry Gilmore was honoured by the Society to become an Honorary member for his achievements.

The banquet dinner had as the theme "The Electromagnetic spectrum" which resulted in some very colourful costumes being on show. The dinner was fantastic and well catered for with a turnout of about 100. During the evening a number of awards and announcements were made. These included the awarding of the Murray Geddes Prize to Dave Cochrane of Kiwistar Optics at Callaghan Innovation. This optics group have a long history in the development and creation of various astronomical optics including the Kiwispec spectrograph, based on the Hercules design used at Mt John Observatory. Most recently Dave has been working on the Prime focus corrector for the William Herschel telescope at La Palma Observatory, one of the largest lenses ever made in the world.

The after dinner speaker was Gary Sparks who gave a very entertaining talk on Archeoastronomy in Peru covering the various sites both well- known and not so well travelled with tales of what many of these sites would have looked like in their prime and the importance of these sites in the various regions in Peru.

-- Orlon Petterson

The second part of Orlon's article will be in the August Newsletter.

9. A New Dwarf Planet

An international team of astronomers have discovered a new dwarf planet orbiting in the disk of small icy worlds beyond Neptune. The new object is roughly 700 km in size and has one of the largest orbits for a dwarf planet. Designated 2015 RR245 by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, it was found using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii, as part of the ongoing Outer solar system Origins Survey (OSSOS).

"The icy worlds beyond Neptune trace how the giant planets formed and then moved out from the Sun. They let us piece together the history of our solar system. But almost all of these icy worlds are painfully small and faint: it's really exciting to find one that's large and bright enough that we can study it in detail," said Dr Michele Bannister of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who is a postdoctoral fellow with the survey.

National Research Council of Canada's Dr JJ Kavelaars first sighted RR245 in February 2016 in the OSSOS images from September 2015. "There it was on the screen -- this dot of light moving so slowly that it had to be at least twice as far as Neptune from the Sun," said Bannister.

The team became even more excited when they realized that the object's orbit takes it more than 120 times further from the Sun than Earth. The size of RR245 is not yet exactly known, as its surface properties need further measurement. "It's either small and shiny, or large and dull," said Bannister.

The vast majority of the dwarf planets like RR245 were destroyed or thrown from the solar system in the chaos that ensued as the giant planets moved out to their present positions: RR245 is one of the few dwarf planets that has survived to the present day --- along with Pluto and Eris, the largest known dwarf planets. RR245 now circles the Sun among the remnant population of tens of thousands of much smaller trans-Neptunian worlds, most of which orbit unseen.

Worlds that journey far from the Sun have exotic geology with landscapes made of many different frozen materials, as the recent flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft showed.

After hundreds of years further than 12 billion km (80 astronomical units, AU) from the Sun, RR245 is travelling towards its closest approach at 5 billion km (34 AU), which it will reach around 2096. RR245 has been on its highly elliptical orbit for at least the last 100 million years.

As RR245 has only been observed for one of the seven hundred years it takes to orbit the Sun, where it came from and how its orbit will slowly evolve in the far future is still unknown; its precise orbit will be refined over the coming years, after which RR245 will be given a name. As discoverers, the OSSOS team can submit their preferred name for RR245 to the International Astronomical Union for consideration.

Current orbital elements for 2015 RR245: a = 81.44 AU, q = 33.69 AU, e = 0.5863, P = 735 years, H = 3.8.

For text & images: http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/NewDwarfPlanet/. For an animation of the early Solar System chaos model see http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=nice+model+solar+system+formation&view=detail&mid=78DB1F448E6068C679E278DB1F448E6068C679E2&FORM=VIRE

-- From a Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the University of British Columbia press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. A Three-Sun Planet

A team of astronomers have imaged the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This unexpected observation suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results were published online in the journal Science on 7 July 2016.

The planet was discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona, using direct imaging at European Southern Observatory´s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The planet, HD 131399Ab, is unlike any other known world. It orbits around the brightest of the three stars in the triple system. The other two stars are a closer binary pair far from the brightest star. The planet's orbit is by far the widest known within a multi-star system. Such orbits are often unstable, because of the complex and changing gravitational attraction from the other two stars in the system, and planets in stable orbits were thought to be very unlikely.

Located about 320 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus, HD 131399Ab is about 16 million years old, making it also one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date, and one of very few directly imaged planets. With a temperature of around 580 degrees Celsius and an estimated mass of four Jupiter masses, it is also one of the coolest and least massive directly-imaged exoplanets.

For about half of the planet´s orbit, which lasts 550 Earth-years, three stars are visible in its sky. The fainter two are always much closer together. Their apparent separation from the brightest star, seen from the planet, changes throughout the planet's 'year'.

Kevin Wagner, who is a PhD student at the University of Arizona, identified the planet among hundreds of candidate planets and led the follow-up observations to verify its nature. The planet also marks the first discovery of an exoplanet made with the SPHERE instrument on the VLT. SPHERE is sensitive to infrared light, allowing it to detect the heat signatures of young planets, along with sophisticated features correcting for atmospheric disturbances and blocking out the otherwise blinding light of their host stars.

Repeated and long-term observations will be needed to precisely determine the planet's trajectory among its host stars. However, observations and simulations so far suggest that the brightest star is eighty percent more massive than the Sun. It is dubbed HD 131399A. The less massive stars, B and C, are about 10 AU apart, a distance roughly equal to that between the Sun and Saturn. The brightest star and the close pair are about 300 AU apart. (1 AU is Earth's distance from the Sun.)

The planet travels around the star A in an orbit with a radius of about 80 AU, about twice as large as Pluto´s in the Solar System. That brings it to about one third of the separation between star A and the B/C star pair.

The authors point out that a range of orbital scenarios is possible, and the verdict on the long-term stability of the system will have to wait for planned follow-up observations that will better constrain the planet´s orbit. Computer simulations show that this type of orbit can be stable, but a small change makes it unstable.

Planets in multi-star systems are of special interest to astronomers and planetary scientists because they provide an example of how the mechanism of planetary formation functions in these more extreme scenarios. While multi-star systems seem exotic to us in our orbit around our solitary star, multi-star systems are in fact just as common as single stars.

See the original ESO press release, with picture at http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1624/

-- From the ESO press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

12. Quote

"A university is not a 'safe space'. If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university." -- Richard Dawkins defending free speech in academia.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter June 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 186

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Second Gravity Wave Event Detected
2. 2016 Conference Notes
3. Horowhenua StellarFest July 29-31
4. Earth and Sky Bright Star Award
5. The Solar System in July
6. Auckland University Joins LSST
7. RASNZ Astrophotography Competition Results
8. Using RGB filters on Cameras for BVR photometry
9. LISA Pathfinder Successful
10. Small Asteroid is Earth's Constant Companion
11. 2017 Eclipse Tour
12. Sirius Observatories Special Offer
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Quotes

1. Second Gravity Wave Detection

On 26 December 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, scientists observed gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of spacetime -- for the second time.

The gravitational waves were detected by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

Gravitational waves carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that these gravitational waves were produced during the final moments of the merger of two black holes -- 14 and 8 times the mass of the Sun -- to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole that is 21 times the mass of the sun.

It was significant that these black holes were much less massive than those observed in the first detection. Because of their lighter masses compared to the first detection, they spent more time -- about one second -- in the sensitive band of the detectors. It is a promising start to mapping the populations of black holes in the universe.

During the merger, which occurred approximately 1.4 billion years ago, a quantity of energy roughly equivalent to the mass of the Sun was converted into gravitational waves. The detected signal comes from the last 27 orbits of the black holes before their merger. Based on the arrival time of the signals -- with the Livingston detector measuring the waves 1.1 milliseconds before the Hanford detector -- the position of the source in the sky can be roughly determined.

In the near future, Virgo, the European interferometer, will join a growing network of gravitational wave detectors, which work together with ground-based telescopes that follow-up on the signals. The three interferometers together will permit a far better localization in the sky of the signals.

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced on 11 February 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy; it confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, and marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

With detections of two strong events in the four months of the first observing run, LIGO scientists can begin to make predictions about how often gravitational waves might be detected in the future. Such waves provide a new way to observe some of the darkest yet most energetic events in our universe.

Both discoveries were made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed.

Advanced LIGO's next data-taking run will begin in the northern autumn. By then, further improvements in detector sensitivity are expected to allow LIGO to reach as much as 1.5 to 2 times more of the volume of the universe. The Virgo detector is expected to join in the latter half of the upcoming observing run.

The LIGO Observatories are funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

"With the advent of Advanced LIGO, we anticipated researchers would eventually succeed at detecting unexpected phenomena, but these two detections thus far have surpassed our expectations," says NSF Director France A. Córdova. "NSF's 40-year investment in this foundational research is already yielding new information about the nature of the dark universe."

For original text & images see: http://news.mit.edu/ and http://www.ligo.org/

-- From a Massachusetts Institute of Technology press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

2. 2016 Conference Notes

President John Drummond gave a summary of the Conference in 'Keeping in Touch' #17. The following is adapted from John's article.

The conference was run very smoothly and Napier's Museum Theatre Gallery venue was superb. The amphitheatre-shaped lecture theatre provided an excellent vantage point from every seat for the talks, which covered a wide-range of astronomical topics and varied in depth. All presenters spoke exceptionally well and kept the audience captivated.

The Fellows´ lecture was presented by Brian Loader who spoke about `Pluto, 2015 June 29´.

Of note were the number of young speakers this year. This is primarily thanks to Immediate-Past-President John Hearnshaw´s SWAPA (Students With A Passion for Astronomy) programme that he initiated under his presidency. With this focus of endearing young people to attend and contribute to conferences and the RASNZ as a whole, the future of New Zealand astronomy and the Society is looking bright indeed!

The new RASNZ committee took office on Saturday 21st May after the AGM at the conference. They are: President: John Drummond (Gisborne) Vice President: Nick Rattenbury (Auckland) Immediate Past President: John Hearnshaw (Christchurch) Treasurer: Simon Lowther (Pukekohe) Secretary: Nichola van der Aa (Whakatane) Councillors: Bob Evans (Invercargill, Steve Butler (Invercargill), Glen Rowe (Lower Hutt),Sergei Gulyaev (Auckland), Orlon Petterson (Christchurch). Affiliated Societies Representatives: Peter Jaquiery (Dunedin), Gary Sparks (Napier). Fellows´ Representative: Karen Pollard (Christchurch).

I would also like to thank the `retiring´ members of the previous RASNZ committee for the many hours of behind-the-scenes work and unrelenting commitment to New Zealand astronomy via RASNZ, namely Gordon Hudson (2012-14 President) and Rory O´Keefe (secretary for 6-years).

Jennie McCormick (MNZM) was welcomed as a fellow of the RASNZ at the conference. Society rules state that, `Fellowship of the Society shall be a distinction conferred upon members who have made notable contributions to either amateur or professional astronomy...´ (Rule 14). Jennie has made a number of significant contributions to New Zealand astronomy over the years, including the discovery of an asteroid (2009 SA1), contributing to the detection of 19 exoplanets by microlensing, being amongst lead authors in 29 journal papers including the prestigious journal, Science, and much more. Jennie now joins the ranks of 12 fellow fellows. Well done Jennie and thoroughly deserved!

Professor Gerry Gilmore had the status of Honorary Member of the Society conferred on him at the banquet. Gerry wasn´t in New Zealand to receive this award but the citation read by Professor John Hearnshaw made everyone proud that he is a Kiwi. His astronomical achievements are truly significant and of momentous note on the global scale. Gerry responded to a congratulatory email from Dr John Hearnshaw thus, "Very many thanks indeed for this unexpected but greatly appreciated honour. I remain proud of my New Zealand heritage, and appreciative of the excellent education I received. I am delighted that I have been able to contribute directly in a small way, and indirectly through my accent (!) to New Zealand astronomy, and very much value this recognition of mutual respect".

This year´s Murray Geddes prize was awarded to Dave Cochrane of KiwiStar Optics for his national and international contribution to optics. Of note is that he is heavily involved with the optics of the prime focus corrector for the William Herschel telescope, which includes a lens 1100 mm in diameter, one of the largest lenses ever made anywhere!

---------- Another member provided the following tributes and backgrounds.

2016 is the year for a change of leadership of RASNZ.

At the end of the Conference in May John Drummond took over as President. John is known throughout New Zealand for his passion for astronomical photography; he has run the Astrophotography Section for a number of years. He recently completed a M.Sc degree in Astronomy at Swinburne University, Melbourne, for interpretation of photographs of interacting galaxies. John is President of the Gisborne Astronomical Society.

The new vice-President (who will take over as President in 2018) is Nicholas (Nick) Rattenbury who is based in the Physics Dept, Faculty of Science, Auckland University. His main research interest is the detection of extra-solar planets through gravitational microlensing. Both John and Nicholas presented papers at the conference on their research. The new Secretary of the Society is Nichola van der Aa who belongs to the Whakatane Astronomical Society.

Grateful thanks were expressed at the Conference to two retiring officers. The out-going President John Hearnshaw has done much to set the Society up for the future. He developed a long-term plan for the society and was successful in introducing young people to the society by way of sponsorship for ten young people to attend last year´s and this year´s conferences through the SWAPA programme (Students with a Passion for Astronomy). He also superintended the very successful Mt John Observatory Jubilee Conference at Tekapo. At the Conference the RASNZ Secretary for the past six years, Rory O´Keefe, retired. Rory has done sterling work as Secretary keeping the mechanics of the Society running smoothly and efficiently.

3. Horowhenua StellarFest July 29-31

Steve Chadwick, President, Horowhenua Astronomical Society, writes:

This is just to let you know that our annual StellarFest is being held on the weekend 29th-31st July. Information and how to book can be found here: http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

We are still putting the programme together so please keep checking back for updates. For the best accommodation please book early.

4. Earth and Sky Bright Star Award

The Council of RASNZ is grateful to Earth & Sky Ltd at Lake Tekapo for instituting the annual Earth & Sky Bright Star award. The award will be made not more often than annually and at intervals of no more than five years.

The terms and conditions of the award are now incorporated into the Society´s bye-laws, and the purpose of the award is to recognize a person or persons for contributions in New Zealand in promoting astronomy to the public, or in astronomical education, or in promoting dark skies so as to allow astro-tourism to flourish.

There are therefore three distinct areas which can be recognized in making the award, namely outreach, education or dark skies protection.

The award shall consist of goods to be determined at the sole discretion of the Directors of Earth & Sky Ltd. The first award was made in 2015 (recipient John Hearnshaw) and consisted of an inscribed astronomical sextant.

Nominations for the award should be received by the RASNZ secretary at least two months before the Society´s Annual General Meeting in any year.

5. The Solar System in July

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in July

                            July  1  NZST                    July 31  NZST
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
SUN:         rise: 7.44am,  set: 5.04pm     rise: 7.27am,  set: 5.27pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 7.16am, ends: 5.33pm   starts: 7.00am, ends: 5.55pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.42am, ends: 6.08pm   starts: 6.27am, ends: 6.28pm
 Astro:    starts: 6.08am, ends: 6.41pm   starts: 5.54am, ends: 7.01pm

July phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          New moon:      July  4 at 11.01 pm (11:01 UT)
  First quarter: July 12 at 12.52 pm (00:52 UT)
  Full moon:     July 20 at 10.57 am (July 19, 22:57 UT)
  Last quarter   July 27 at 11.00 am (July 26, 23:00 UT)

The planets in July

All five naked eye planets are visible during some part of the evening by late July. Mercury becomes easily visible in the early evening sky towards the end of the month. Venus will be lower Mercury from the second part of July. Mars remains prominent although fading a little while Jupiter gets lower to the east. Saturn will not be far from Mars.

MERCURY is at superior conjunction on July 7, when it will be 47 million km (0.314 AU) beyond the Sun and 199 million km (1.33 AU) from the Earth. Before conjunction Mercury will be too close to the Sun to observe, after conjunction it becomes an evening object setting after the Sun. By the end of July the planet will set nearly 2 hours later than the Sun. On the evenings of the 30th and 31st Mercury will be less than a degree from Regulus with Mercury at magnitude -0.1, 1.5 magnitudes brighter than Regulus. About an hour after sunset the two will be 7° up in a direction half way between west and northwest.

On July 16th, Mercury and Venus will be less than a degree apart. But the two planets will set only 45 minutes after the Sun, making observation difficult. At 5.30 with the Sun only 4° below the horizon, the planets will be a low 4° above it. Venus at magnitude -3.9 may be detectable, Mercury's magnitude being-1.1.

VENUS, in the very early evening sky will set less than half an hour after the Sun on the 1st and about 50 minutes after the Sun on the 31st. So it will be a very low object at best. Venus starts the month in Gemini, moves across Cancer between July 10 and 26 and ends the month in Leo heading towards Regulus.

MARS remains a prominent evening object although loses a little of its brightness during July as the Earth recedes from it. By the end of the month it will still be bright at magnitude -0.8.

The planet will be in Libra moving rather slowly to the east after being stationary at the end of June. By the end of July, Mars will be poised to cross into Scorpius, heading towards its rival Antares.

The moon passes Mars mid month, but the two do not get very close. They are about 10° apart on the nights of July 14 and 15.

JUPITER becomes an early evening object during July, setting just after 9pm on the 31st. It remains in Leo.

The 25% lit crescent moon will be just over 1° from Jupiter on July 9. An occultation of the planet is only visible from the Southern Ocean to the south of Australia and parts of Antarctica beyond.

SATURN is well paced for evening viewing during July, a bright object about 6° from Antares which it will outshine by nearly a magnitude. The colour of the two makes a contrast. The planet is in Ophiuchus moving slowly in a retrograde sense to the west.

The 87% lit moon will be just under 4° from Saturn on the evening of July 16.

Outer planets

URANUS, at magnitude 5.9, is a morning object in Pisces although it will rise just before midnight by the end of July. It is stationary on the 30th, with its position changing only slightly during the month.

NEPTUNE rises near 10 pm at the beginning of the month advancing to 8am by the month's end. The planet, at magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius and will be about half a degree from the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aqr. In the mid to late evening Neptune will be to the right of the star early in the month gradually moving up to be at the star's upper right by the end of the month. There are no stars as bright as Neptune between them to cause confusion.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.3 is also in evening sky during July. The planet remains in Sagittarius. It moves away from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr during July, starting only 8 arc-minutes from the star on the 1st, the distance increasing to almost a degree by the 31st.

Minor planets

(1) Ceres, is in Cetus during July moving to the east. It brightens slightly through the month, from 9.2 to 8.9. It rises at 1.30 am on the 1st and close to midnight on the 31st.

(4) Vesta rises 100 minutes before the Sun on July 1 and just after 5 am on the 31st. Starting the month in Taurus, Vesta will be less than half a degree from the magnitude 3 star zeta Tau on the morning of the 14th. On the 21st the asteroid will cross into Orion.

-- Brian Loader

6. Auckland University Joins LSST

Scientists from the University of Auckland are joining one of the most ambitious astronomy projects ever undertaken, as they sign up to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project.

"We see this as potentially the most important astronomy project New Zealand has ever been involved with and we are extremely excited to be part of it," says University of Auckland Head of Physics Professor Richard Easther.

Equipped with the world´s largest digital camera at 3,200-megapixels, the LSST is a purpose-built telescope that will take repeated snapshots of the southern sky, each one the size of 40 full moons. Over its 10- year lifespan, the data generated by the project will be measured in petabytes (one quadrillion bytes) and will be analysed by teams of astronomers around the world.

The telescope will map tens of billions of stars and galaxies, imaging most of the Southern Sky every few days. Using this data, scientists can find objects as far away as exploding supernovae at the edge of the visible Universe, to asteroids that can potentially collide with the Earth.

Auckland scientists will use data from the LSST to find planets circling other stars, test theories of the origin and evolution of the Universe, and to search for entirely new classes of astronomical objects.

Professor Easther says that the LSST is an opportunity to participate in a project at the frontier of modern science. Beyond astronomy, making sense of the data delivered by the LSST will drive advances in statistics and machine learning, key components of the emerging field of "big data", and create a wealth of opportunities for Auckland students.

Moreover, the University´s agreement with the LSST consortium will allow other New Zealand astronomers to join the project, making this effectively a national opportunity.

The LSST is a joint US/Chile project supported by the US National Science Foundation. It is located in Cerro Pachon in northern Chile and is expected to see "first light" in 2019 and be fully operational in 2021.

-- Press release by Richard Easther, Department of Physics, University of Auckland.

7. RASNZ Astrophotography Competition Results

Placings for the 2016 competition were:

Section 1st 2nd 3rd Picturesque Amit Kamble Greg Stevens Jonathan Green Deep Sky Amit Kamble Paul Stewart Stefan Krivan Solar System Paul Stewart Maurice Collins Shaun Fletcher Scientific Paul Stewart Jim McAloon Shaun Fletcher

8. Using RGB filters on Cameras for BVR photometry

I did this as an experiment back about 2000 but I don't observe much these days. But perhaps some of the astrophotographers would like a change from deep sky imaging on occasion. The idea is to measure the colour of a star, either by using B-V or less reliably, V-R.

The methods are discussed on the Variable Stars South (VSS) website http://variablestarssouth.org/ under the tabs Resources; Technique Guides; DSLR Photometry Guide. Whilst this discusses DSLR work, many of the aspects are similar, but much simpler, with a CCD camera. You will finally derive a V magnitude which is the brightness of the star when you measure it plus a B-V colour which is closely related to temperature.

So why not try this idea. VSS projects are listed in the Research section as well as Projects. Assistance, and advice is easily available through our Google discussion group This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or directly from Stan Walker This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. There are many interesting but under-observed stars in the Southern Hemisphere such as the R CrB star, V854 Centauri, which may be in the early stages of another fading episode.

-- Stan Walker

9. LISA Pathfinder Successful

Last December the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the LISA Pathfinder mission to test the technology needed to build a space-based gravitational wave observatory. Results from only two months of science operations show that the full-scale Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission is possible.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, the LISA Pathfinder team show that the test masses are almost motionless with respect to each other, with a relative acceleration lower than ten millionths of a billionth of Earth´s gravity. The demonstration of the mission´s key technologies opens the door to the development of a large space observatory capable of detecting gravitational waves emanating from a wide range of exotic objects in the Universe.

Gravitational waves are oscillations in the fabric of spacetime, moving at the speed of light and caused by the acceleration of massive objects. They can be generated by supernovas, neutron star binaries spiralling around each other, and pairs of merging black holes. Even from these powerful objects, however, the fluctuations in spacetime are tiny by the time they arrive at Earth - smaller than 1 part in 100 billion billion.

Sophisticated technologies are needed to register such minuscule changes, and gravitational waves were directly detected for the first time only in September 2015 by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). This experiment saw the characteristic signal of two black holes, each with some 30 times the mass of the Sun, spiralling towards one another in the final 0.3 seconds before they coalesced to form a single, more massive object.

The signals seen by LIGO in 2015 have a frequency of around 100 Hz, but gravitational waves span a much broader spectrum. In particular, lower- frequency oscillations are produced by even more exotic events such as the mergers of supermassive black holes.

With masses of millions to billions of times that of the Sun, these giant black holes sit at the centres of massive galaxies. When two galaxies collide, these black holes eventually coalesce, releasing vast amounts of energy in the form of gravitational waves throughout the merger process, and peaking in the last few minutes. To detect these events and fully exploit the new field of gravitational astronomy, it is crucial to open access to gravitational waves at low frequencies between 0.1 mHz and 1 Hz, one cycle per 10,000 seconds to 1 per second.

This requires measuring tiny fluctuations in distance between objects placed millions of kilometres apart, something that can only be achieved in space, where an observatory would also be free of the seismic, thermal and terrestrial gravity noises that limit ground-based detectors. LISA Pathfinder was designed to demonstrate key technologies needed to build such an observatory.

A crucial aspect is placing two test masses in freefall, monitoring their relative positions as they move under the effect of gravity alone. Even in space this is very difficult, as several forces, including the solar wind and pressure from sunlight, continually disturb the cubes and the spacecraft.

To achieve this the LISA Pathfinder contains a pair of identical, 2 kg, 46 mm gold-platinum cubes, 38 cm apart. They fly, surrounded, but untouched, by a spacecraft whose job is to shield them from external influences, adjusting its position constantly to avoid hitting them.

The mission started operations on 1 March, with scientists performing a series of experiments on the test masses to measure and control all of the different aspects at play, and determine how still the masses really are.

The first two months of data show that, in the frequency range between 60 mHz and 1 Hz, LISA Pathfinder's precision is only limited by the sensing noise of the laser measurement system used to monitor the position and orientation of the cubes.

At lower frequencies of 1-60 mHz, control over the cubes is limited by gas molecules bouncing off them - a small number remain in the surrounding vacuum. This effect was seen reducing as more molecules were vented into space, and is expected to improve in the following months.

At even lower frequencies, below 1 mHz, the scientists measured a small centrifugal force acting on the cubes, from a combination of the shape of LISA Pathfinder´s orbit and to the effect of the noise in the signal of the startrackers used to orient it.

While this force slightly disturbs the cubes´ motion in LISA Pathfinder, it would not be an issue for a future space observatory, in which each test mass would be housed in its own spacecraft, and linked to the others over millions of kilometres via lasers.

At the precision reached by LISA Pathfinder, a full-scale gravitational wave observatory in space would be able to detect fluctuations caused by the mergers of supermassive black holes in galaxies anywhere in the Universe.

For the ESA press release got to http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/LISA_Pathfinder_exceeds_expectations

For the Physical Review Letters abstract see https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.231101

10. Small Asteroid is Earth's Constant Companion

A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.

As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well. It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or "quasi-satellite."

"Since 2016 HO3 loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "One other asteroid -- 2003 YN107 -- followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity.

This new asteroid is much more locked onto us. Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth's companion for centuries to come."

In its yearly trek around the sun, asteroid 2016 HO3 spends about half of the time closer to the sun than Earth and passes ahead of our planet, and about half of the time farther away, causing it to fall behind. Its orbit ranges from 0.9 AU from the sun to 1.1 AU (Earth's average distance is 1 AU). The orbit is also tilted by 7.8 degrees, causing it to bob up and then down once each year through Earth's orbital plane. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a game of leap frog with Earth that will last for hundreds of years.

The asteroid's orbit also undergoes a slow, back-and-forth twist over multiple decades. "The asteroid's loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth's gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon," said Chodas. "The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth."

Asteroid 2016 HO3 was first spotted on 27 April 2016, by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, operated by the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy and funded by NASA's Planetary Defence Coordination Office. Pre-discovery observations have been identified back to 2004. The size of this object has not yet been firmly established, but it is likely to be between 40 and 100 metres.

For the original text and images see: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2016-154

For asteroid news and updates, follow AsteroidWatch on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AsteroidWatch

-- From a Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. 2017 Eclipse Tour

Lou Pagano, Vice President of the Sutherland Astronomical Society Inc., Sydney, advises that they are organising a trip to the August 2017 total solar eclipse. They will be viewing in close proximity to Kansas City. For details see http://sasi.net.au/index.php/news/311-sasi-usa-total-solar-eclipse-tour-2017

12. Sirius Observatories Special Offer

A note from Sirius Observatories Australia Pty Ltd advises that, as part of their 30th birthday celebrations, they are offering a free High Wind Kit valued at over AUD$500.00 with every observatory purchased. Contact details are Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website: www.siriusobservatories.com . Phone: +61 (0)7 3284 2111; Fax: +61 (0)7 3284 4827

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 November 2016. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

16. Quotes

"And thus Nature will be very conformable to her self and very simple, performing all the great Motions of the heavenly Bodies by the Attraction of Gravity which intercedes those Bodies, and almost all the small ones of their Particles by some other attractive and repelling Powers which intercede the Particles." -- Isaac Newton in Opticks. Fourth edition printed for William Innys at the Weft-End of St. Pauls, p. 398. (1730)

See the original at http://www.relativitycalculator.com/pdfs/Opticks_by_Sir_Isaac_Newton.pdf

-- Thanks to Phil Yock.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

June 2016

Log in or become an RASNZ member to access this Southern Stars issue.

Quasars - The Brightest Objects in the Universe
Anushka Kharbanda
Volume 55, number 2. June 2016. p3

 

Astronomy and Me!
Joshua Daglish
Volume 55, number 2. June 2016. p6

 

SN 2015lh: The Most Luminous Supernova Discovered
Brent Nicholls
Volume 55, number 2. June 2016. p7

 

The 2015 June 29 Occultation by Pluto
Brian Loader
Volume 55, number 2. June 2016. p10

 

Book Review
John Drummond
Volume 55, number 2. June 2016. p22

 


RASNZ Electronic Newsletter May 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 185

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Executive Secretary Sought
2. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting Agenda
3. Annual General Meeting Agenda
4. The Solar System in June
5. Royal Society of NZ 150th Celebration
6. VSS Symposium 4 Report
7. Extra-Bright Supernova Re-brightens!
8. Milky Way's Nuclear Star Cluster Imaged
9. More Kepler Planets Confirmed
10. Young Planetary System Imaged
11. Saturn's Moons New?
12. How to Join the RASNZ
13. Quotes

1. Executive Secretary Sought

Want to make a difference? RASNZ is looking for a new Executive Secretary. This council position involves doing the administrative tasks of the society, minutes, email, letters etc., but also provides an opportunity to contribute to the direction and activities of the RASNZ. You will need 20 minutes a day to deal with email and other correspondence, more time around the annual conference to complete reports and admin tasks. Access to a word processing and spreadsheet programs are needed. If you think you can fill this significant role for RASNZ then contact John Drummond This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more detailed information on the job details contact the current secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting Agenda

THE 2016 RASNZ AFFILIATED SOCIETIES´ COMMITTEE MEETING AGENDA Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting 2016 - Friday 20 May 2016 at the Quality Inn, Napier commencing at about 4:30 p.m.

Agenda: 1) Apologies. 2) Minutes of the previous affiliated societies committee meeting held at Tekapo 3) Matters arising from the minutes. 4) Election of Affiliated Societies Representatives to Council 2016- 2018 5) General business a) Insurance and Health and Safety - Bob Evans

If there are any items which a Society wishes to have raised in General Business, please send them ASAP to the Executive Secretary at the address below. The minutes of the 2015 affiliated societies committee meeting have been placed on the RASNZ web site at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/affsoc-minutes. Please send communications about this agenda to me by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or post to 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

At the Meeting in 2006, it was resolved that the committee should consist of the presidents/chairs of societies or their appointed deputies. Please inform me if the president of your society is unable to attend, and who the appointed deputy may be. If your society will not be represented, an apology would be appreciated.

Rory O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary, May 2016 ----------

Remember to visit our Affiliated Societies page - http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/affiliated-societies-details

-- Copied from Keeping in Touch #16 - 14th May 2016, circulated by John Drummond, RASNZ vice-president. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3. Annual General Meeting Agenda

THE 93rd (2016) RASNZ ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING AGENDA 93rd Annual General Meeting - Sat 21 May 2016, MTG Hawkes Bay, 1 Tennyson St, Napier, at 4.30 pm.

Agenda

1. Apologies

2. Respect for Deceased Members 3. Greetings to Absent Members. 4. Minutes of the 92nd AGM held in Tekapo. 5. Matters arising from the Minutes. 6. Annual report of council for 2015 7. Annual accounts for 2015 8. Election of Officers and Council for 2016-2018 The following nominations have been received: Position Nominee Proposed Seconded President John Drummond Gordon Hudson Murray Forbes Vice President Nick Rattenbury Simon Lowther John Hearnshaw Treasurer Simon Lowther Rory O´Keeffe John Hearnshaw Fellows´ Rep Karen Pollard Bob Evans John Hearnshaw Councillors Bob Evans Pauline Loader Brian Loader Steve Butler Rory O´Keeffe John Hearnshaw Glen Rowe Warwick Kissling Gordon Hudson Sergei Gulyaev John Hearnshaw Grant Christie Orlon Petterson Karen Pollard John Hearnshaw

John Hearnshaw, as President 2014-2016, will be on council ex-officio as a Vice President. There was no nomination for Secretary. Nominations may be taken from the floor of the AGM for Secretary. As the number of nominations did not exceed the positions available, no election was necessary. Affiliated Societies´ Reps are elected at the Affiliated Societies Committee meeting (Fri 20 May).

  1. Election of Auditor.
  2. Election of Honorary Solicitor.
  3. Election of a new Fellow of the Society
  4. Election of an Honorary Member of the Society
  5. General Business as allowed for in the rules.

Yours sincerely, Rory O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary, May 2016

-- Copied from Keeping in Touch #16 - 14th May 2016 circulated by John Drummond, RASNZ vice-president. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. The Solar System in June

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The southern hemisphere winter solstice is on June 21 with the Sun furthest north at about 10am.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in june

                            June  1  NZST                    June 30  NZST
              morning        evening         morning        evening
SUN:         rise: 7.34am,  set: 5.02pm     rise: 7.45am,  set: 5.04pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 7.06am, ends: 5.31pm   starts: 7.16am, ends: 5.33pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.32am, ends: 6.05pm   starts: 6.42am, ends: 6.07pm
 Astro:    starts: 5.58am, ends: 6.39pm   starts: 6.08am, ends: 6.41pm

June phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          New moon:      June  5 at  3.00 pm (03:00 UT)
  First quarter: June 12 at  8.10 pm (08:12 UT)
  Full moon:     June 20 at 11.02 pm (11:02 UT)
  Last quarter   June 28 at  6.19 am (June 27, 18:19 UT)

The planets in June

Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will be prominent in the evening sky with the latter low by late evening. Mercury will start June as an easy morning object in the dawn sky. It will brighten during the month but get too close to the Sun to observe towards the end of June.

Venus is at superior conjunction on June 7, it then becomes an evening object but remains too close to the Sun to observe.

MERCURY starts June as a morning object rising more than 2 hours before the Sun on the 1st. With a magnitude 0.9 it will be 10° up an hour before sunrise. Look for Mercury in a direction nearly 30° north of east. The planet is at its greatest elongation 24° west of the Sun on the 5th. During the rest of June Mercury will slip back towards the Sun but also gain in brightness, reaching a magnitude -1.6 on the 30th. But by then it will rise only 30 minutes before the Sun.

On the morning of June 4 a very thin crescent moon will be 6° from Mercury, the moon to the lower right of the planet. An occultation of Mercury by the moon, shortly before midnight NZ time, will only be visible from parts of the southern Atlantic Ocean including South Georgia.

VENUS is close to the Sun all month. Too close for observation. On the first it rises into the morning sky only 7 minutes before the Sun.

The planet is at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on June 7. At this conjunction Venus will pass behind the Sun as "seen" from the Earth. In fact the "occultation" of Venus by the Sun lasts from about 11 am on June 6 (June 5, 23hr UT) to 9am on June 8 (June 7, 21 hr UT), that is for some 46 hours. At conjunction Venus will be 108 million km (0.72 au) beyond the Sun

After conjunction Venus will become an evening object. By the end of June it will set only 25 minutes after the Sun.

MARS starts June at magnitude -2.0, the same as Jupiter. But the colours are very different, Mars being distinctly orange. Following conjunction late in May, the Earth will be pulling away from Mars during June. As a result the planet will dim a little, but still be at magnitude -1.6 on the 30th.

During June Mars will be in Libra moving to the west towards alpha Lib and away from Antares and Saturn. The planet is stationary on June 30.

The 90% lit moon will be at its closest to Mars for the month on the evening of the 17th when the two will be a little over 8° apart..

JUPITER will be best placed for viewing early evening as it sets shortly after midnight on the 1st and at 10.42 pm on the 30th. The planet remains in Leo, its position changes little during the month, being stationary on June 10.

The 41% lit moon will be about 5° below Jupiter an hour or so before they set on June 11. They will be considerably closer, while below NZ's horizon, a few hours later.

SATURN is at opposition on June 3, so will be rising close to the time of sunset and setting near the time the Sun rises. At opposition Saturn will be 1.35 billion km from the Earth (9.01 AU) and a further 150 million km from the Sun.

The planet is in Ophiuchus moving slowly to the west a few degrees below Antares, as seen in the evening. With a zero magnitude Saturn is noticeably brighter than Antares or any other star near it. Mars, brighter still, is 18° from Saturn.

The moon passes Saturn on the 19th but the two will be closest soon after midday. By the time they are visible in the evening the almost full moon will be 5° below Saturn. The latter will be about 22° up to the east.

Outer planets

URANUS is a morning object in Pisces at magnitude 5.9. It rises about 4 hours before the Sun on June 1 and 6 hours earlier on the 30th. The moon passes Uranus twice during June.

On the morning of June 2 at about 7am, the 15% lit crescent moon will be just over 3° from Uranus. The planet will be to the left of the moon and a little higher. It should be easy to spot Uranus using binoculars, there are two stars a little fainter than Uranus between the two.

The moon passes Uranus again on the 29th. This time the two are closest at midday, at 7am they will again be just over 3° apart, with the 38% lit moon above and a little to the left of Uranus..

NEPTUNE rises at midnight on June 1 and nearly 2 hours earlier on the 30th. So the planet is beginning to move into the evening sky, but will still be best placed for viewing in the morning a while before sunrise. The planet, at magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius.

Neptune is stationary on June 14 after which it will start to move slowly to the west. It will be about half a degree from the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aqr. The planet will be to the upper right of the star. No stars as bright as Neptune are between the two.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.3 rises early evening during June, less than half an hour after sunset by the end of the month. The planet remains in Sagittarius. It passes the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr during June, with the two only 3 arc-minutes apart, one-tenth the diameter of the full moon, on the 25th.

Minor planets

(1) Ceres, magnitude 9.3, is in Cetus during June. It rises at 2.45 am on the 1st and just under an hour earlier by the 31st.

(4) Vesta is a dawn object in Taurus. At the beginning of June it rises half an hour before the Sun, by the end of the month some 95 minutes before the Sun. Mercury passes Vesta during June as the two move east. They are closest on the mornings of June 22 and 23 when Vesta (magnitude 8.4) will be 2° to the upper right of Mercury (magnitude -0.8)

-- Brian Loader

5. Royal Society of NZ 150th Celebration

The RASNZ received the following note from the Royal Society of NZ.

The Royal Society of New Zealand celebrates our 150th birthday in 2017.  
Over 150 years we have worked to promote new knowledge, and now work 
towards a New Zealand enriched by science, technology and humanities.  
As constituent organisations you are of course independent, but if you 
would like to join us in recognising our 150th anniversary, we have a 
suggestion. Our President or Vice Presidents are available to give a 
short talk and show a short video at one of your events between April 
and October 2017. In this way we can celebrate the partnerships we have 
had past and present and look to the future. We will be highlighting 
our multi-disciplinary focus, celebrating success and looking to the 
future. We would be interested to know if this is an attractive option 
for your organisation.

-- Dr Andrew Cleland, Chief Executive. www.royalsociety.org.nz

6. VSS Symposium 4 Report

The latest issue (April 2016) of the Variable Star South newsletter is available on the website: Here is the link: www.variablestarssouth.org/latestnewsletter

There is an article in the Newsletter by the Editor Phil Evans about the VSS Symposium 4 held recently in Sydney. It gives a short account of each of the presentations, so you can get an idea of the main ideas presented in a short read; refer to pages 16 to 20 of the Newsletter. As well as this overview there are the following articles based on presentations at the Symposium:

Ed Budding Deciphering the Enigma of QZ Carinae ((refer pg 20) Jeff Byron A toolbox for eclipsing binary stage 1 analysis (pg 26) Murray Forbes An improved method for correcting atmospheric extinction (pg 34)

To follow up on any of the techniques mentioned at the Symposium refer to the Research Tabs of the website or email the Research Coordinator.

-- Alan Baldwin

7. Extra-Bright Supernova Re-brightens!

Subo Dong (Peking University, China) and colleagues discovered the powerful stellar explosion known as ASASSN-15lh on June 14, 2015, using the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASASSN). [See Newsletter No. 183, Item 8.] Four robotic 14-centimeter telescopes, collectively known as Cassius and stationed at Cerro Tololo, Chile, were staring at the entire visible sky when they spotted the flash. Since then, the supernova has baffled astronomers.

The typical supernova goes something like this: a star ages, burning up its core´s hydrogen, then helium, and so on up the element chain until it reaches iron, when fusion stops. At that point, the core can no longer support itself against the inward crush of gravity. The star´s outer layers rush inward too, but they bounce off the collapsed core and energy from the collapse throws them back out in a brilliant flash.

The light from ASASSN-15lh took almost 3 billion years to arrive at Earth, its extreme distance muting the visible brilliance to a mere 17th magnitude. Nevertheless, its peak power was more than twice that of any previously known stellar explosion. Usually, much of a supernova´s initial glow actually comes from radioactive nickel, created in abundance near the core. What´s weird about ASASSN-15lh (and a few others like it) is that they´re so bright, they´d need an awful lot of nickel to explain their glow.

Of course, ASASSN-15lh faded, as supernovae are wont to do. But this particular supernova held a surprise for researchers. Roughly three months after it began dimming, the supernova changed course. For 40- some days, its ultraviolet radiation charged up, increasing fivefold before plateauing for another couple of months and finally dropping away again. Radiation at visible wavelengths ignored this transformation and continued to fade unabated.

A born-again supernova isn´t unheard of. But typically when that happens, the blast has run into nearby gas that the star threw out before it exploded. ASASSN-15lh doesn´t display any of the emission lines you´d expect in its spectra if this were the case.

Until now, the most successful explanation of ASASSN-15lh´s oddities has been the magnetar. In this scenario, the core of an aging, massive star collapsed to form a spinning stellar remnant that´s like a neutron star but with a magnetic field at least 100 billion times the strength of the Sun´s strongest fields. Rather than radioactive elements, the supernova´s power would come from the magnetar´s gyrating magnetic field.

But as magnetars go, this one has to be pretty weird: to produce the radiation initially seen from ASASSN-15lh, the magnetar would have had to convert almost all its magnetic and rotational energy to radiation. Now, factoring in the extra energy recently emitted in the ultraviolet makes the demands on the magnetar model even more stringent. "The magnetar model is safe, but barely," says Todd Thompson (Ohio State University). "The magnetar [scenario] would be in danger if we saw roughly two times more energy. It would begin to push what we think is possible. "Of course," Thompson adds, "without another viable alternative, we might still try to make the magnetar model work."

Not everybody agrees: Peter Brown (Texas A&M University) just posted another paper on the topic on the arXiv's astrophysics preprint server. Brown and colleagues argue that while the magnetar scenario might provide a good explanation of the initial ASASSN-15lh observations, it doesn't suffice to explain the object's resurgence at ultraviolet wavelengths. Whatever ASASSN-15lh may be, one thing's for sure - the exceptional object isn't lending itself to any easy explanations.

-- Abridged from the article by Monica Young on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the original with graphs and graphics at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/the-resurgence-of-the-brightest-supernova/#sthash.H2ciXOn2.dpuf

8. Milky Way's Nuclear Star Cluster Imaged

Peering deep into the heart of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has imaged the half a million stars that are members of the Milky Way's nuclear star cluster. This is the densest and most massive star cluster in the galaxy.

The centre of the Milky Way, 27 000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius, is a crowded place. This region is so tightly packed that it is equivalent to having one million stars crammed into the volume of space between us and Alpha Centauri, located 4.3 light-years away. At the very hub of our galaxy, this dense nuclear star cluster surrounds the Milky Way's central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, which alone is about four million times the mass of the Sun.

Sagittarius A* is not the only mystery lurking in this part of the galaxy. The crowded centre contains numerous objects that are hidden at visible wavelengths by thick clouds of dust in the galaxy's disc. In order to truly understand the central part of our galaxy astronomers used the infrared vision of Hubble to peer through this obscuring dust. To reveal the image in all its glory the scientists then assigned visible colours to the different wavelengths of infrared light, which is invisible to human eyes. It is estimated that there are about 10 million stars in the cluster which are too faint to see, even for Hubble.

Using Hubble's vantage point above the atmosphere and its high resolution, astronomers were also able to measure the movements of the stars over a period of four years. Using this information, they inferred important properties of the nuclear star cluster, such as its mass and structure. The motion of the stars may also offer astronomers a glimpse into how the nuclear star cluster was formed - whether it was built up over time from globular star clusters that happened to fall into the centre of the galaxy, or from gas spiralling in from the Milky Way's disc to form stars at the core.

See the image and full text at http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2016/11/

-- from a NASA/ESA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard. ----------

For more images and notes that there hasn't been space for recently, see: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1547a/

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/08/image/a/
http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1605a/
https://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/top100/
http://subarutelescope.org/Pressrelease/2016/02/03/index.html
http://www.eso.org/public/archives/images/original/eso1547a.tif

9. More Kepler Planets Confirmed

Even though Kepler´s primary mission ended three years ago, the data it collected just revealed a mother lode: 1,284 newly confirmed planets.

Over the course of four years, the Kepler spacecraft stared at a tiny patch of sky teeming with stars and tallied up 4,696 exoplanet candidates. But for years now, many have remained just that: candidates. To confirm any one planet requires difficult, time- consuming follow-up observations. And the smaller candidates are out of reach of even the largest ground-based telescopes. After years of follow-up observations, the list of confirmed planets stood at 1,041 - nothing to sneeze at, but nowhere near complete Now that list has just doubled in size. With the newest study from the Kepler team, the confirmed planets now number 2,325 Timothy Morton (Princeton University) and colleagues accomplished that feat by taking a different tack than their predecessors.

Acknowledging that follow-up observations wouldn´t be possible for all planet candidates, the team didn´t look for additional evidence supporting a planet´s existence. Instead, they searched for signs that the planet wasn´t there. Then they calculated the chance that what looked like a planet was actually an imposter. Any candidate with less than a 1% chance of being fake is now considered real.

When astronomers look for transiting planets, they never actually see the planet itself. Instead they see a dip in the host star´s light as the planet passes in front of it. But other astrophysical sources can mimic that dip. The most common imposter is an edge-on pair of stars whose mutual orbit blinks on and off in the background - an eclipsing binary.

Morton and his team took a two-pronged, fully automated approach to determining whether a signal was an imposter or a real planet. Their code first examined the signal itself - a real planet transit will block the star´s light in a certain way that can sometimes be distinguished from imposters. Then the code factored in how common imposters might be. For example, how common are binary stars, and how many lie in the direction Kepler was looking?

The algorithm studied each planet candidate for several minutes, then spit out a probability that the signal is a fake. And as long as that probability was less than 1%, the candidate moved to the confirmed list.

All in all, 1,935 planets were confirmed in this way, including 651 that had already been confirmed by some other method. And 428 candidates (generally those with large radii, whose signals are more easily faked by other astrophysical sources) were flagged as imposters.

Several thousand candidates remain in limbo, not quite flagrant enough to be flagged as fakes, but not quite convincing enough to be confirmed either. These candidates await improvements to Morton´s algorithm, follow-up observations, or both. Of the newly confirmed planets, nine orbit in their star´s habitable zone, the region in which a planet with an Earth-like atmosphere could sustain liquid water on its surface. Add that to the dozen already known, and astronomers have assembled a decent size of potentially habitable planets.

The Kepler mission will close out in a year and a half, says mission scientist Natalie Batalha (NASA Ames), though we can expect one last Kepler catalogue sometime next year. The secondary K2 mission is still going strong and will likely end in mid-2018, when the spacecraft runs out of fuel.

"We´re getting ready to pass the baton to future missions," Batalha adds, namely, the dynamic duo: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

10. Young Planetary System Imaged

A new image from the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) shows the finest detail ever seen in the planet-forming disc around the nearby Sun-like star TW Hydrae. It reveals a tantalising gap at the same distance from the star as the Earth is from the Sun, which may mean that an infant version of our home planet, or possibly a more massive super-Earth, is beginning to form there.

The star TW Hydrae is a popular target of study for astronomers because of its proximity to Earth (only about 175 light-years away) and its status as an infant star (about 10 million years old). It also has a face-on orientation as seen from Earth. This gives astronomers a rare, undistorted view of the complete protoplanetary disc around the star.

Other pronounced gaps that show up in the new images are located three billion and six billion kilometres from the central star, similar to the average distances from the Sun to Uranus and Pluto in the Solar System. They too are likely to be the results of particles that came together to form planets, which then swept their orbits clear of dust and gas and shepherded the remaining material into well-defined bands.

For the new TW Hydrae observations, astronomers imaged the faint radio emission from millimetre-sized dust grains in the disc, revealing details on the order of the distance between the Earth and the Sun (about 150 million km). These detailed observations were made possible with ALMA's high-resolution, long-baseline configuration. When ALMA's dishes are at their maximum separation, up to 15 kilometres apart, the telescope is able to resolve finer details.

Earlier ALMA observations of another system, HL Tauri, show that even younger protoplanetary discs - a mere 1 million years old - can display similar signatures of planet formation. By studying the older TW Hydrae disc, astronomers hope to better understand the evolution of our own planet and the prospects for similar systems throughout the Milky Way.

The astronomers now want to find out how common these kinds of features are in discs around other young stars and how they might change with time or environment.

See the ALMA images at http://www.eso.org/public/images/?search=eso1611 The resulting paper is at http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1611/eso1611a.pdf

-- From a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Saturn's Moons New?

Though Saturn has 62 moons (to date) only Titan is of significant size. With a diameter of 5151 km it is the second biggest moon in the Solar System after Ganymede. Its mass is nearly twice that of our Moon, giving it enough gravity to retain a dense atmosphere with liquids forming lakes.

Curiously, though, Saturn's other moons are small alongside Titan. Their sizes ranging from Mimas´s 400 km to Rhea´s 1,525 km. Together, they have a mere twentieth as much mass as Titan does. Interspersed with these are a vast collection of moonlets, with sizes of a few tens to a couple hundred km. Some of these are likely born from pileups of ring material.

In terms of numbers, Saturn´s retinue matches that of the king of the planets, Jupiter, whose current satellite tally also happens to be 62. But Jupiter's moons are much bigger with its four Galilean moons (some of the largest moons in the solar system), two of which are comparable in size to Mercury. Titan´s elongated orbit and loner status set it apart from this stately satellite quartet. And Jupiter doesn´t have any mid-size moons.

Planetary scientists have long wondered why Jupiter has come out so much the winner when it comes to big moons. In 2013, for example, Erik Asphaug (Arizona State University) and Andreas Reufer (then at University of Bern, Switzerland) suggested that Saturn started with a Galilean system of its own, but the moons crashed into and obliterated one another. The rubble then coalesced into Titan and the mid-size moons.

A new paper explores this collision idea further. Matija Cuk (SETI Institute) and his colleagues turned back time by studying the icy moons´ motions and figuring out when and how they could have interacted, given their current orbits. Some moons move in what are called orbital resonances, which means the time it takes Moon A to complete an orbit around Saturn is a simple fraction (say, one half) of the time it takes Moon B to do so. Resonant moons strongly affect each other´s orbits, easily tilting them out of the original plane in which they lay.

Saturn also has an off-putting effect on its satellites, pushing them farther away with time. This tidal push is strong because the planet isn´t solid. It affects each of the various moons in different ways, changing each of their orbits with time and making and breaking resonances.

What the team found was that, given the moons´ current (and backtracked) orbits, the moons can´t have migrated much from where they first formed. But that doesn´t make sense if they´ve been orbiting the planet from the solar system´s early days: Saturn´s tides are just too tenacious - the moon Enceladus and its tidal-triggered geysers confirm that.

Instead, the team argues, the mid-size moons can only be about 100 million years old - or, as the SETI Institute´s press release puts it, "younger than the dinosaurs." (Dinosaurs first appeared in the Triassic period, 230 million years ago.) The moons formed from a ring of debris, born from the collisions of a previous population of moons, the team suggests in the April 1st Astrophysical Journal.

That´s consistent with his Galilean squabble theory, Asphaug says. Unlike Asphaug and Reufer, Cuk´s team doesn´t argue in favour of Titan being a merger-born moon, but that suggestion "definitely ranks as hypothetical," Asphaug readily admits.

Cuk´s team offers a test: craters. If the mid-size moons are indeed young, they won´t have had time to build up a perfectly homogenous peppering of pockmarks from space. Instead, craters on moons within Titan´s orbit (all the mid-size moons but Iapetus) would concentrate around those satellites´ equators, because the moons would have been exposed to a lot of debris in the plane of their birth ring but not nearly as much from other angles. Many of the moons are heavily scarred, so it´ll take dedicated work to tease out whether the moons have these girdles.

References: 1. Cuk et al. "Dynamical Evidence for a Late Formation of Saturn´s Moons." Astrophysical Journal, vol. 820, no. 2 (April 1, 2016). 2. Asphaug and A. Reufer. "Late Origin of the Saturn System." Icarus, vol 223, issue 1 (March 2013).

-- Abridged from an article by Camille M. Carlisle of 15 April on Sky & Telescope's website.

12. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

13. Quotes

"But there's kind of a notion that 'everyone's opinion is equally valid.' My arse! A bloke who's a professor of dentistry for 40 years does not have to debate with some idiot who removes his teeth with a string and a door!" -- Dara O'Briain.

"Sceptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense." -- Carl Sagan.

"When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others." -- Bertrand Russell.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter April 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 184

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. RASNZ Conference Reminder
2. RASNZ Conference Auction
3. Astrophotography Workshop - May 23-24
4. RASNZ Astrophotography Competition
5. Notice of Annual General Meeting
6. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting
7. The Solar System in May
8. VSSS4 - A Successful Variable Star Event
9. Gamma Rays from Gravitational Wave Source?
10. No Gravity Waves from Galaxy Mergers - So Far
11. Two Nearby Supernovae in 'Recent' Times
12. Evidence of Exoplanetary System from 1917
13. Correction: Radio Interferometry's 70th Anniversary
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
17. Quote

1. RASNZ Conference Reminder

It is now only a month out from the RASNZ Conference, to be held May 20th-22nd in Napier. We encourage all RASNZ members (and their friends in local Societies) to come to the conference, which this year features Dr Michele Bannister, an ex-pat Kiwi and planetary astronomer. She will give an invited talk describing recent discoveries in the outer solar system and also a public talk on the Sunday afternoon describing recent discoveries at Pluto made by the New Horizons spacecraft. For those interested, the conference will be followed on May 23rd-24th by an astrophotography workshop.

We have now closed submissions for oral presentations as the programme is full, but there is still more space for poster papers. Details of the conference, with links to the registration and poster paper submission pages are to be found at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ .

-- Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

2. RASNZ Conference Auction

It is planned to hold an auction of astronomical paraphernalia at the RASNZ conference banquet on 21 May. If any members of the Society have objects they would like to dispose of at the auction, could they please email the Society president, Prof John Hearnshaw (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The proceeds from the auction will all go to the Society, first to fund the prizes in the planned Astroquiz at the conference, and if there are surplus funds beyond that, they will be added to the Graham Blow fund that supports the competition `Students with a Passion for Astronomy´, whereby students are supported to come to the RASNZ conference.

The number of items to be auctioned will be limited to 2 or 3, and I will make a selection of the most interesting and tantalizing.

Those donating items should bring them to Napier; or, if that is not possible, then full details and photographs should accompany your email.

Please contact me by May 10 with your entries for the auction.

-- John Hearnshaw, President, RASNZ

3. Astrophotography Workshop - May 23-24

Immediately following the RASNZ conference on Monday 22nd and Tuesday 23rd (until lunchtime) there will be an astrophotography symposium. It will be at the Hawke´s Bay Holts Planetarium on the grounds of the Napier Boys´ High School, Chambers Street, Napier. This 1.5-day event will be an astrophotographer´s dream as a plethora of astronomical topics will be discussed covering everything from getting the images at the telescope through to processing the images at the computer. We are fortunate to have a range of top New Zealand astrophotographers presenting talks and speaking from personal experience.

We are especially pleased to announce that Rolf Olson, arguably the best astrophotographer in New Zealand, will be sharing from his vast array of image processing skills. Rolf recently achieved `best in show´ image in the Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OPT) annual imaging competition. Rolf is an expert in the astro-image processing software PixInsight. Rolf´s explanation of, and experience with, PixInsight will be the main thrust of the workshop. So come along and learn from one of the world´s best imagers! For more of Rolf´s incredible work go to http://www.rolfolsenastrophotography.com/ To register, go to the RASNZ conference registration page http://www.rasnz.org.nz/groups-news-events/conference-registration. If you have any queries regarding the workshop or would like to possibly present a talk, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Note that there is an additional $20 `late fee´ if paid after 20 April. Note that you don´t have to be a RASNZ member to attend.

-- John Drummond

4. RASNZ Astrophotography Competition

The RASNZ's Astrophotography Section's annual astrophotography competition is approaching. This year we are very fortunate to have Peter Ward from Australia as the judge. Peter is considered one of the top astrophotographers in Australia and produces lovely work. Peter is the owner/operator of Advanced Telescope Supplies - the website can be seen at http://www.atscope.com.au/ . Further information about Peter can be seen at http://www.mikesalway.com.au/the-top-10-best-astrophotographers-in-australia/ .

The deadline is 11pm Saturday 30th April 2016. Each person can enter two (2) entries in each of the four sections. The photos will be on electronic display at the RASNZ conference at Napier. Prizes and certificates go to the top three places (1-2-3) in each section! There are four sections: Deep Sky, Solar System, Picturesque, and Scientific. Images have to have been taken between 1st May 2015 and 30th April 2016. They can be sent to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Large Tiffs or Jpegs are fine (under 10 MB please).

Please note that the Scientific Section is undersubscribed, so put your scientific minds to work and come up with a photo (or two) that show some aspect of scientific curiosity and photo journalism. Keep snapping - you´ve got 12 imaging days (nights) left!

-- John Drummond.

5. Notice of Annual General Meeting

The 93rd Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held on Saturday 21 May 2016 at the Museum Theatre Gallery, Hawkes Bay. The meeting will begin at 4pm. Notices of motion are invited for the AGM and should reach the Secretary by 9 April 2016 to be included on the agenda.(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) Items for the agenda include the Society´s Annual Report and the completion of the election of officers and council members. The nomination period for council has closed but there has been no nomination for secretary. Nominations can be accepted from the floor at the AGM. The minutes of the 2015 AGM are available on the RASNZ website. A full agenda for the AGM will be published after 9 April 2016.

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ

6. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting

The Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting will be held on Friday 20 May 2016 at 4 pm. The venue is yet to be announced. Normally the meeting is attended by the President of Affiliated Societies or their nominated representative. Affiliated societies are invited to notify the secretary about their attendance and the names of the representatives who will be attending. The minutes of the previous meeting are available on the RASNZ website. The business of the meeting will include the election of the Affiliated Societies Representatives on the council of RASNZ. Any items affiliated societies would like to place on the agenda should be forwarded to the secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ

7. The Solar System in May

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in may

                            May  1  NZST                   May 31  NZST
              morning        evening         morning        evening
SUN:         rise: 7.05am,  set: 5.29pm     rise: 7.33am,  set: 5.03pm 
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.39am, ends: 5.56pm   starts: 7.05am, ends: 5.31pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.07am, ends: 6.29pm   starts: 6.31am, ends: 6.06pm
 Astro:    starts: 5.34am, ends: 7.01pm   starts: 5.58am, ends: 6.39pm

May phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          New moon:      May  7 at  7.30 am (May  6, 19:30 UT)
  First quarter: May 14 at  5.02 am (May 13, 17:02 UT)
  Full moon:     May 22 at  9.14 am (May 21, 21:14 UT)
  Last quarter   May 30 at 12.12 am (May 29, 12:12 UT)

The planets in May

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on May 9 when it will transit the Sun, an event visible from the opposite side of the Earth to NZ. After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object and will be readily visible towards the end of May. Mars is at opposition on May 22 when it will be as bright as Jupiter. Mars will be close to Antares and Saturn.

MERCURY starts May as an evening object, but sets only 24 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, so is not observable. It is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of May 10 NZST.

At the May conjunction Mercury will transit the Sun. The transit starts at 11:12 pm on 9 May (NZST) and ending at 6:42 am on 10 May (NZST); UT date and times are May 9, 11:12:18 and 18:42:14 respectively. The end is about half an hour before sunrise at Wellington. Thus the transit is not visible from New Zealand nor from Australia. The Middle East, Europe and Africa are well placed for viewing the start of the transit, the later stages are visible from the Americas. Apart from much of the Atlantic Ocean, Greenland and Brazil are the best places for seeing the entire event.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object moving away from the Sun fairly rapidly. By May 24 the planet, at magnitude 1.8 will be some 7.5° above the horizon an hour before sunrise. A week later Mercury, now magnitude 1.0, will be nearly 10° up an hour before sunrise. Look for Mercury in a direction about 25° north of east.

VENUS, in the morning sky, is close to the Sun all month. At the start of May its elongation is 10° with the planet rising 50 minutes before the Sun. By the 31st it will rise only 9 minutes before the Sun. So viewing will be difficult.

MARS, which has been steadily brightening recently, is at opposition on May 22. At magnitude -2.1 it will briefly be as bright as Jupiter. Mars will be close to Antares, the two just under 9° apart. The star at magnitude 1.1 is looking almost dim compared to the planet. Saturn will be about 12° from Mars and on the evening of May 22, the just past full moon will be 9° distant.

Mars is closest in its orbit to the Earth on May 31 when the two will be just over 75 million kilometres apart.

JUPITER will be best placed for viewing early evening, although it doesn´t set until after midnight. The planet is in Leo, its position changes little during the month, being stationary on May 10.

The 66% lit moon will be just over a degree from Jupiter on May 15.

SATURN rises an hour and three quarter after the Sun sets on May 1, and just 6 minutes after sunset on the 31st. So it is best viewed later evening. The planet, in Ophiuchus, is a few degrees from Antares. Saturn´s magnitude brightens from 0.2 to 0.0 during the month.

The moon passes Saturn on the 22nd but will be closest well after they set in NZ. The two are about 7° apart on the evening of May 22 and about 7.5° apart the following evening with the moon the opposite side of Saturn.

Outer planets

URANUS is a morning object in Pisces at magnitude 5.9. It rises about 100 minutes before the Sun on the 1st increasing to 4 hours earlier on the 31st.

NEPTUNE is in the morning sky, rising just after midnight by May 31. The planet, at magnitude 7.9 is in Aquarius. Neptune is moving to the east past the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aqr. The two are closest mid month when less than half a degree apart. Neptune will be to the upper right of the star. No stars as bright as Neptune are between the two.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.4 rises close to 9.30 at the start of May and 2 hours earlier by the end of the month. The planet remains in Sagittarius less than 1° from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr.

MINOR PLANETS (1) Ceres, magnitude 9.3, is in Cetus during May. It rises just before 4 am on the 1st and just over an hour earlier by the 31st.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, is in Taurus.  Its starts May as an evening 
object setting less than an hour after the Sun.  It is at conjunction 
with the Sun on the 24th when the two will appear about 3.5° apart.

(7) Iris is at opposition on May 29 with a magnitude 9.2. The asteroid will be in Ophiuchus, 3° from Antares, just under 6° from Saturn and 9.5° from Mars. The 5th magnitude star rho Oph will be just over 13 arc minutes from Iris. The star has two close companions easily visible in binoculars at magnitudes 6.8 and 7.3, each about 2.5 arc minutes from brighter star.

-- Brian Loader

8. VSSS4 - A Successful Variable Star Event

Variable Stars South's Fourth Symposium took place at the University of Sydney on Good Friday, 25 March 2016, and had just over 30 participants. It was preceded by an enjoyable evening at a local restaurant in a 'getting to meet one another' occasion.

The range of papers was impressive, emphasising the variety of research areas as shown in our annual report in Southern Stars. These comprised eleven presentations with five poster papers and were supplemented by a further eleven papers at the succeeding NACAA conference. An encouraging feature was several presentations by visual observers, with two more at the NACAA event.

Topics ranged from a variety of eclipsing binaries, through Mira, delta Scuti and Cepheid pulsating variables to L2 Puppis, a possible incipient planetary nebula. Techniques covered CCD and DSLR photometry, visual measures, through to video cameras and spectroscopy. These will begin appearing on our web site over the next month or two. In contrast to VSSS3 almost all the participants were active observers.

The whole event was enjoyable - perhaps the best conference I´ve ever attended. A good venue, good organisation and a wide range of papers - excellent in both content and presentation. I hope to see many of these in formal print shortly. It was announced that the next NACAA conference will be in Ballarat in 2018 and, whilst I will have retired as director by then and it will not be my decision, it sounds a useful venue for VSSS5.

-- Stan Walker

9. Gamma Rays from Gravitational Wave Source?

On September 14 waves of energy traveling for more than a billion years gently rattled space-time in the vicinity of Earth. The disturbance, produced by a pair of merging black holes, was captured by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. This event marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves and opens a new scientific window on how the universe works.

Less than half a second later, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a brief, weak burst of high-energy light consistent with the same part of the sky. Analysis of this burst suggests just a 0.2-percent chance of simply being random coincidence. Gamma-rays arising from a black hole merger would be a landmark finding because black holes are expected to merge "cleanly," without producing any sort of light.

"This is a tantalizing discovery with a low chance of being a false alarm, but before we can start rewriting the textbooks we´ll need to see more bursts associated with gravitational waves from black hole mergers," said Valerie Connaughton, a GBM team member at the National Space, Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and lead author of a paper on the burst now under review by The Astrophysical Journal.

Detecting light from a gravitational wave source will enable a much deeper understanding of the event. Fermi's GBM sees the entire sky that is not blocked by Earth. It is sensitive to X-rays and gamma rays with energies between 8000 and 40 million electron volts (eV). For comparison, the energy of visible light ranges between about 2 and 3 eV.

With its wide energy range and large field of view, the GBM is the premier instrument for detecting radiation from short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), which last less than two seconds. They are widely thought to occur when orbiting compact objects, like neutron stars and black holes, spiral inward and crash together. These same systems also are suspected to be prime producers of gravitational waves.

"With just one joint event, gamma rays and gravitational waves together will tell us exactly what causes a short GRB," said Lindy Blackburn, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. "There is an incredible synergy between the two observations, with gamma rays revealing details about the source's energetics and local environment and gravitational waves providing a unique probe of the dynamics leading up to the event."

Currently, gravitational wave observatories possess relatively blurry vision. This will improve in time as more facilities begin operation, but for the September event, dubbed GW150914 after the date, LIGO scientists could only trace the source to an arc of sky spanning an area of about 600 square degrees, comparable to the angular area on Earth occupied by the United States.

"That's a pretty big haystack to search when your needle is a short GRB, which can be fast and faint, but that´s what our instrument is designed to do," said Eric Burns, a GBM team member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "A GBM detection allows us to whittle down the LIGO area and substantially shrinks the haystack."

Less than half a second after LIGO detected gravitational waves, the GBM picked up a faint pulse of high-energy X-rays lasting only about a second. The burst effectively occurred beneath Fermi and at a high angle to the GBM detectors, a situation that limited their ability to establish a precise position. Fortunately, Earth blocked a large swath of the burst´s likely LIGO location from Fermi at the time, allowing scientists to further narrow down the burst´s position.

The GBM team calculates less than a 0.2-percent chance random fluctuations would have occurred in such close proximity to the merger. Assuming the events are connected, the GBM localization and Fermi's view of Earth combine to reduce the LIGO search area by about two- thirds, to 200 square degrees. With a burst better placed for the GBM´s detectors, or one bright enough to be seen by Fermi´s Large Area Telescope, even greater improvements are possible.

The LIGO event was produced by the merger of two relatively large black holes, each about 30 times the mass of the sun. Binary systems with black holes this big were not expected to be common, and many questions remain about the nature and origin of the system.

Black hole mergers were not expected to emit significant X-ray or gamma-ray signals because orbiting gas is needed to generate light. Theorists expected any gas around binary black holes would have been swept up long before their final plunge. For this reason, some astronomers view the GBM burst as most likely a coincidence and unrelated to GW150914. Others have developed alternative scenarios where merging black holes could create observable gamma-ray emission. It will take further detections to clarify what really happens when black holes collide.

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his general theory of relativity a century ago, and scientists have been attempting to detect them for 50 years. Einstein pictured these waves as ripples in the fabric of space-time produced by massive, accelerating bodies, such as black holes orbiting each other. Scientists are interested in observing and characterizing these waves to learn more about the sources producing them and about gravity itself.

>From a NASA press release. See the original note with animations at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasas-fermi-telescope-poised-to-pin-down-gravitational-wave-sources

10. No Gravity Waves from Galaxy Mergers - So Far

New results from NANOGrav -- the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves -- establish astrophysically significant limits in the search for low-frequency gravitational waves. This result provides insight into how often galaxies merge, and how those merging galaxies evolve over time. To obtain this result, scientists required an exquisitely precise, nine-year pulsar-monitoring campaign conducted by two of the most sensitive radio telescopes on Earth, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The recent LIGO detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes with tens of solar masses has confirmed that distortions in the fabric of space-time can be observed and measured. Researchers from the NANOGrav have spent the past decade searching for low-frequency gravitational waves emitted by black hole binaries with masses many millions of times larger than those seen by LIGO.

Analysis of NANOGrav's nine-year dataset provides very constraining limits on the prevalence of such supermassive black hole binaries throughout the universe. Given scientists' current understanding of how often galaxies merge, these limits point to fewer detectable supermassive black hole binaries than were previously expected. This result has significant impacts on our understanding of how galaxies and their central black holes co-evolve.

Low-frequency gravitational waves are very difficult to detect, with wavelengths spanning light-years, and originating from black hole binaries in galaxies spread across the sky. The combination of all these giant binary black holes leads to a constant "hum" of gravitational waves that models predict should be detectable at Earth. Astrophysicists call this effect the "stochastic gravitational wave background", and detecting it requires special analysis techniques.

Pulsars are the cores of massive stars left behind after stars go Supernova. They emit pulses of radio waves as they spin. The fastest pulsars rotate hundreds of times each second and emit a pulse every few milliseconds. These "millisecond pulsars" (MSPs) are considered nature's most precise clocks and are ideal for detecting the small signal from gravitational waves. The gravitational wave background imprints a unique signature onto the radio waves seen from a collection of MSPs.

Astrophysicists use computer models to predict how often galaxies merge and form supermassive black hole binaries. Those models use several simplifying assumptions about how black hole binaries evolve when they predict the strength of the stochastic gravitational wave background. By using information about galaxy mergers and constraints on the background, the scientists are able to improve their assumptions about black hole binary evolution.

After nine years of observing a collection of MSPs no stochastic background has been detected. This is beginning to rule out many predictions based on current models of galaxy evolution.

There are two possible interpretations of the non-detection. Some supermassive black hole binaries may not be in circular orbits or are significantly interacting with gas or stars. This would drive them to merge faster than simple models have assumed in the past. An alternate explanation is that many of these binaries spiral together too slowly to ever emit detectable gravitational waves.

NANOGrav is currently monitoring 54 pulsars, using the U.S. National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico, the two most sensitive radio telescopes at these frequencies. Their array of pulsars is continually growing as new MSPs are discovered. In addition, the group collaborates with radio astronomers in Europe and Australia as part of the International Pulsar Timing Array, giving them access to many more pulsar observations. Ellis estimates that this increase in sensitivity could lead to a detection in as little as five years.

In addition, this measurement helps constrain the properties of cosmic strings, very dense and thin cosmological objects, which many theorists believe evolved when the universe was just a fraction of a second old. These strings can form loops, which then decay through gravitational wave emission. The most conservative NANOGrav limit on cosmic string tension is the most stringent limit to date, and will continue to improve as NANOGrav continues operating.

-- From a NANOGrav and U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard. See the originals with text, image, and animation at http://nanograv.org/press/ and https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/2016-nanograv-sbr

11. Two Nearby Supernovae in 'Recent' Times

It´s a classic doomsday scenario. A nearby star explodes in a brilliant supernova, pumping out more energy in a split second than the Sun will emit in a billion years. The blast showers Earth with radioactive elements that destroy the ozone layer and genetically mutate life. But even though astronomers think a nearby star (that is, within 100 light-years of Earth) explodes every million years or so - although not every one has such devastating results - definitive proof has been hard to pin down.

For more than half a century, scientists have recognized two tantalizing clues that nearby supernovae might have showered the Earth roughly 2 million years ago. The first lies in sea-floor sediments where an isotope of iron, iron-60, is found. Iron-60 has a half-life is only 2.6 million years so must be the result of something recent on the geological timescale. The other hint is the Local Bubble - a vast peanut-shaped and plasma-filled cavity surrounding the Sun. Nearby supernova probably carved out this bubble as well.

Now Dieter Breitschwerdt (Berlin Institute of Technology) and colleagues have put these pieces together to pinpoint the likely locations of ancient supernovae. The results published April 7th in Nature, show that two supernovae, both roughly 300 light-years away, exploded 1.5 million and 2.3 million years ago.

To find stars that likely died millions of years ago, Breitschwerdt´s team started with their surviving family. All stars are born within clusters of hundreds to thousands of stars across a wide range of masses. A cluster´s highest-mass stars explode first, while lower-mass siblings live longer. So when astronomers spot a cluster made of only low-mass stars, they assume the missing high-mass stars have already gone supernovae.

After digging through archived Hipparcos data, Breitschwerdt and his colleagues found just the family they were looking for: a group of some 70 low-mass stars. The team then estimated the masses of heavyweight stars presumed missing from that cluster - which told them how long those stars would have lived - in order to pin down exactly when those stars would have exploded.

Breitschwerdt and his colleagues calculated that 16 supernovae in the cluster exploded during the past 13 million years. They ran computer simulations to show how those supernovae might have carved a bubble in space - and the results perfectly matched maps of the Local Bubble. This result alone was exciting enough. But Breitschwerdt wanted to see if he could also make the leap between this result and the iron-60 deposited on the ocean floor.

The presence of iron-60 - an isotope that´s almost exclusively created in supernova explosions - in Earth´s deep-sea crusts allowed the team to nail down a specific time-period to look for the supernovae explosions. The astronomers counted iron-60 layers, and found that one layer was deposited roughly 2.2 million years ago.

It was immediately evident that two of their supernovae had occurred around that time. But in order to verify that these supernovae were the true culprits, the team first had to calculate how the iron-60 fused in the stellar core gets mixed into the blast wave that eventually hits Earth. Breitschwerdt´s calculations show that two supernovae - one that occurred 2.3 million years ago and one that occurred 1.5 million years ago - contributed roughly half of all the iron-60. The rest comes from all the other supernovae combined.

Fortuitously, another paper released in Nature by Anton Wallner (Australian National University) reports iron-60 in crust samples from four different locations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Evidence from multiple locations is exactly what scientists expect to see, given that supernovae would have rained the isotope down across the entire globe.

Would early humans have been affected by the celestial explosions? Adrian Melott (University of Kansas) is working on that answer now. The Nature papers refer to supernovae within several hundred light-years, but supernovae have to be much closer to do any real damage, he says. "What we call the kill zone - where you get a really big mass extinction - is like 8 or 10 parsecs [26 to 33 light-years]". So the effects of supernovae at several hundred light-years from Earth won´t be large.

12. Evidence from 1917 of Exoplanetary System

A spectrum obtained in 1917 of a nearby lone white dwarf star indicates that it has rocky planets orbiting it. Van Maanen's star, named after its discoverer, was identified as a probable nearby star in 1917 from its large proper motion, its movement against background stars. Later measures put it distance at 13.9 light-years.

The spectrum obtained with the Mt Wilson 100-inch (2.5-metre) telescope -- then the world's biggest -- showed that it was a white dwarf star, a little hotter than the sun. A detail in the spectrum that was overlooked until now was the presence of heavier elements, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, which should have long since disappeared into the star's interior due to their weight.

White dwarfs with heavy elements in their spectra represent a type of planetary system featuring vast rings of rocky planetary remnants that deposit debris into the stellar atmosphere. These recently discovered systems are called "polluted white dwarfs." They were a surprise to astronomers, because white dwarfs are stars like our own Sun at the end of their lifetimes, so it was not at all expected that they would have leftover planetary material around them at that stage.

The mechanism that creates the rings of planetary debris, and the deposition onto the stellar atmosphere, requires the gravitational influence of full-fledged planets. Planets themselves have not yet been detected orbiting van Maanen's star, nor around similar systems, but Jay Farihi, who noticed the absorption lines due to the heavy elements, is confident it is only a matter of time.

-- For the full Carnegie press release, with the spectrum, see https://carnegiescience.edu/node/2019 Thanks to John Arnold of Canterbury University's EPS Library for pointing out this item.

13. Correction: Radio Interferometry's 70th Anniversary

Last month's Newsletter Item 11 was erroneously headed "Radio Astronomy's 70th Anniversary". The article itself made it clear that it was radio _interferometry_ that was 70 years old last January, not radio astronomy.

Radio astronomy had its beginnings when Karl Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories discovered radio noise from the Milky Way in 1933. His discovery was followed up by Grote Reber in 1937 and by others after World War II.

14. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

17. Quotes

"The greatest possible irony would be if in our endless quest to fill our lives with comfort and happiness we created a world that had neither." -- Bill Bryson

"Too much of a good thing is wonderful." -- Mae West.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter March 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 183

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. RASNZ Conference Reminder
2. Notice of Annual General Meeting
3. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting 2016
4. RASNZ Conference Auction
5. The Solar System in April
6. Surprise Meteor Shower on New Year's Eve
7. Weak Meteor Shower March 28-29?
8. Super Luminous Supernova 2015LH
9. A Brief History of the Dominion Observatory
10. Most Distant Galaxy Seen
11. Radio Astronomy's 70th Anniversary
12. Head-on Collision Made Moon
13. Old Stars´ Fossil Fields
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Previously Unknown Cluster of Nothingness Discovered

1. RASNZ Conference Reminder

It is now only two months out from the RASNZ Conference, to be held May 20th-22nd in Napier. We encourage all RASNZ members (and their friends in local Societies) to come to the conference, which this year features Dr Michele Bannister, an ex-pat Kiwi and planetary astronomer, who will be talking about the recent discoveries at Pluto made by the New Horizons spacecraft. For those interested, the conference will be followed on May 23rd-24th by an astrophotography workshop.

There is still room in the conference programme for more talks (and posters), so if you have done anything astronomically interesting recently we would love to hear from you.

Details of the conference, with links to the registration and paper submission pages are to be found at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/

-- Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

2. Notice of Annual General Meeting

The 93rd Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held on Saturday 21 May 2016 at the Museum Theatre Gallery, Hawkes Bay. The meeting will begin at 4pm. Notices of motion are invited for the AGM and should reach the Secretary by 9 April 2016 to be included on the agenda.(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) Items for the agenda include the Society´s Annual Report and the completion of the election of officers and council members. The nomination period for council has closed but there has been no nomination for secretary. Nominations can be accepted from the floor at the AGM. The minutes of the 2015 AGM are available on the RASNZ website. A full agenda for the AGM will be published after 9 April 2016. -- Rory O´Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ

3. Affiliated Societies' Committee Meeting 2016

The Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting will be held on Friday 20 May 2016 at 4 pm. The venue is yet to be announced. Normally the meeting is attended by the President of Affiliated Societies or their nominated representative. Affiliated societies are invited to notify the secretary about their attendance and the names of the representatives who will be attending. The minutes of the previous meeting are available on the RASNZ website. The business of the meeting will include the election of the Affiliated Societies Representatives on the council of RASNZ. Any items affiliated societies would like to place on the agenda should be forwarded to the secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ

4. RASNZ Conference Auction

It is planned to hold an auction of astronomical paraphernalia at the RASNZ conference banquet on 21 May. If any members of the Society have objects they would like to dispose of at the auction, could they please email the Society president, Prof John Hearnshaw (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The proceeds from the auction will all go to the Society, first to fund the prizes in the planned Astroquiz at the conference, and if there are surplus funds beyond that, they will be added to the Graham Blow fund that supports the competition `Students with a Passion for Astronomy´, whereby students are supported to come to the RASNZ conference.

The number of items to be auctioned will be limited to 2 or 3, and I will make a selection of the most interesting and tantalizing.

Those donating items should bring them to Napier; or, if that is not possible, then full details and photographs should accompany your email.

Please contact me by May 10 with your entries for the auction.

-- John Hearnshaw, President, RASNZ

5. The Solar System in April

NZDT ends on Sunday April 3 at 3am, clocks should then be set back one hour. Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) up to the change and then as NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Rise and set times for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in april

                        April  1  NZDT                   April 30  NZST
              morning       evening          morning        evening
SUN:         rise: 7.34am,  set: 7.14pm     rise: 7.04am,  set: 5.30pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 7.09am, ends: 7.40pm   starts: 6.38am, ends: 5.57pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.37am, ends: 8.12pm   starts: 6.06am, ends: 6.30pm 
 Astro:    starts: 6.05am, ends: 8.44pm   starts: 5.33am, ends: 7.02pm

April PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  April  1 at  4.17 am (Mar 31, 15:17 UT)
  New moon:      April  7 at 11.24 pm (11:24 UT)
  First quarter: April 14 at  3.59 pm (03:59 UT) 
  Full moon:     April 22 at  5.24 pm (05:24 UT) 
  Last quarter   April 30 at  3.29 pm (03:26 UT)

The planets in April

Jupiter will dominate the evening sky particularly early and late in the month when the moon is absent. Mercury is likely to be lost in evening twilight, setting soon after the Sun. Mars and Saturn will be to the east later in the evening, with Mars brightening to magnitude - 1.5 during the month. Venus is rather low in the dawn sky.

MERCURY is nominally in the evening sky in April but virtually unobservable. On the 1st it sets about 20 minutes later than the Sun, on the 30th about 26 minutes later. At its greatest, mid month, when the planet is at its greatest elongation 20 ° east of the Sun, it sets later.

VENUS is a low object in the morning sky in April. On the 1st it will be about 16° up as the Sun rises just north of east. By the end of the month it will be only 8.5° at sunrise, so a low but not impossible object to spot shortly before the Sun appears.

Uranus will be less than a degree to the lower left of Venus on the morning of the 23rd, but with a magnitude of 5.9 it is very doubtful the fainter planet will be visible in binoculars in the twilight.

The moon, as a very thin crescent, will be 7° above Venus on the morning of the 6th, the following morning the moon will be a similar distance below Venus. As a hair line crescent, less than 1% lit, the moon will be very difficult to spot.

MARS brightens during April by a magnitude from -0.5 to -1.5 as its distance from the Earth decreases leading up to its opposition in May. The planet rises at 9.40 pm (NZDT) on the 1st and 6.40 pm (NZST) on the 30th so by then is visible most of the night.

The planet starts April in Scorpius, 6° from Antares. It crosses into Ophiuchus on the 3rd when it will be some 8.5° from Saturn. But on the 17th Mars is stationary and then starts moving back to the west to cross back into Scorpius on the last day of the month. As a result it remains quite close to the similarly coloured Antares all month.

The moon, just past full, is closest to Mars on the 25th, when Mars, Saturn and the moon will form a near equilateral triangle with Mars at the upper apex.

JUPITER, having been at opposition early March, will be a prominent evening object throughout April. It will be in Leo moving slowly to the west towards Regulus, with the star 15° to the left of the planet as seen in the evening sky.

The moon and Jupiter will be closest on June 18, when the 87% lit moon will be about 3° from Jupiter mid evening.

SATURN will rise about 10.15 pm on the 1st, advancing to 7.20 pm on the 30th. It will not set until after sunrise. The planet remains in Ophiuchus heading slowly to the west towards Mars. The two are closest mid month when about 7° apart.

As noted for Mars, the moon will form a triple with the two planets on the evening of the 25th. In fact the moon is closest to Saturn on the morning of the 26th with the two 4° apart shortly before sunrise.

Outer planets

URANUS is at conjunction on the far side of the Sun on April 9, so will not be observable during April. At conjunction Uranus will be 20 arc-minutes south of the Sun's limb. Distance wise it will be 20.0 AU from the Sun and 21 AU (3137 million km) from the Earth.

By the end of April Uranus will rise 90 minutes before the Sun and will be 8° above Venus. The two are closest on the morning of April 23.

NEPTUNE, in the morning sky, starts April some 8° above and a little to the left of Venus. By the end of the month the two will be about 50° apart, due to the rapid motion of the inner planet. Neptune will then rise close to 2 am.

On the morning of April 5, Neptune will be 3.5° to the lower right of the crescent moon.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.4 rises just after midnight at the beginning of April and about 9.35 pm on the 30th. The planet remains in Sagittarius. It is stationary on April 18 and is about 1° from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr.

Minor planets

(1) Ceres, magnitude 9.2, starts April in Aquarius just under 7° to the right of Venus in the dawn sky. It crosses into Cetus on the 2nd where it soon falls behind Venus. This in fact means it gets steadily higher in the morning sky and will rise at 4 am by April 30.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, is in Aries until the 30th when it moves into Taurus. It sets 90 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, less than an hour later on the 30th.

The 5% lit crescent moon will be just over 1° to the right of Vesta on April 9. At 6.30 pm the two will be 8° above the horizon as seen from Wellington. Vesta will be about level with the upper lit cusp of the moon.

-- Brian Loader

6. Surprise Meteor Shower on New Year's Eve

"In a way, the shower helped chase bad spirits away," says SETI Institute meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens. "Now we have an early warning that we should be looking for a potentially hazardous comet in that orbit."

In September of 2014, Jenniskens teamed up with Professor Jack Baggaley of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, to establish a meteor video surveillance project in the southern hemisphere to find such warning signs of dangerous comets. This project was similar to the existing cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance network (CAMS) in northern California. The CAMS network is sponsored by, and supports the goals of, the NASA Near Earth Object Observation program.

Now, 32 video cameras are spread over two stations on New Zealand´s South Island. Amateur meteor astronomers Peter Aldous at Geraldine and Ian Crumpton at West Melton are operating the stations. Data are submitted to the SETI Institute where Jenniskens calculates the meteoroid trajectories.

"New Zealand, lying between 35 and 47 degrees southern latitude, has a long tradition of meteor studies," says Baggaley. "While radar observations in the past were efficient at observing sporadic meteors, the video cameras can see the meteor showers really well."

Jenniskens and Baggaley describe the network and report on the new result in a paper submitted for publication in the Journal of the International Meteor Organization. The paper characterizes the trajectories of 21 Volantids measured on December 31, and two more on January 1.

"These were naked-eye meteors and rates peaked at the time of the local New Year´s Eve celebrations," notes Jenniskens. "One out of three meteors that night came from this shower." The shower was not seen the year before and is not known from past radar observations.

"A confined stream of dust particles must have been steered into Earth´s path for a brief moment," says co-author and meteoroid stream dynamicist Rachel Soja of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, who calculated that the Earth will be safe from the comet and its debris in the near future.

The meteoroids move in a fairly steeply inclined orbit similar to that of some Jupiter-family type comets. "The parent body of this stream still eludes us," says Soja. "It may not be active now and the high inclination may make it difficult to spot."

-- A SETI Institute press release. See the original at http://www.seti.org/seti-institute/press-release/surprise-meteor-shower-new-years-eve

7. Weak Meteor Shower March 28-29?

Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center; and J. Vaubaillon, Institut de Mecanique Celeste et de Calcul des Ephemerides, Paris, report that, in the wake of the close 0.0356-AU approach of comet 252P to the earth on Mar. 21, it is possible that a new meteor shower will appear on Mar. 28 and 29. A standard model was developed by integrating the orbit of the comet back to A.D. 1850 and ejecting dust at each perihelion passage since that time. After forward-integrating these particles to March 2016, it was found that at no time this year are the densest dust trail sections in the earth's path. Instead, a diffuse cloud of perturbed meteoroids ejected during 1894-1926 is calculated to be in the earth's path between Mar. 28.0 and 29.417 UT. Dust ejected in 1921 is predicted to peak Mar. 28.5 and 28.958 UT, respectively), while dust from 1915 would peak at March 28.75. Slow meteors will radiate from a geocentric radiant at R.A. = 5h08m, Decl. = -16.3°, with velocity 11.1 km/s. Rates will be low.

-- From Central Bureau Electronic Telegram 4267, 2016 March 17.

See last month's Newsletter for more on Comet 252P.

8. Super Luminous Supernova 2015LH

On 14 June 2015 the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernova (ASAS-SN) found a possible new transient in the southern constellation Vela (J2000 RA 22h02m15s, -61°39'35"). Seeing it in the raw candidates list I obtained the first confirmation image at 09:07 UT on 16th June with the 30cm Meade lx200 at Mount Vernon Observatory in Nelson. Around 100 minutes later we obtained a second confirmation image with the 1-metre LCOGT telescope at Cerro Tololo in Chile. We then put out an astronomers telegram (Atel 7642).

Analysing previous data we find that the transient was first detected on May 8 and peaked on June 5 at magnitude 16.9. Spectra obtained by several large telescopes including the SALT 10-metre and Clay 6.5- metre show a redshift of 0.2326 which indicates a distance of 3.8 billion light years. This yields an absolute magnitude of -23.5 and bolometric luminosity of 2.2 x 10^38 Watts or 5.72 x 10^11 times the Sun's output. This makes 2015LH the most luminous SN ever discovered. Although current models struggle to explain the huge output of this object follow-up observations continue to support its distance and hence energy output. A more detailed paper will follow in 'Southern Stars'.

We thank SALT staff for assistance with observations, LCOGT for continued support, the ASAS-SN team in particular Subo Dong (Peking University), and David Victor for loan of 30cm telescope. For more information on the ASAS-SN project visit their home page: www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~assassin/

-- Brent Nicholls, Mount Vernon Observatory, Nelson.

9. A Brief History of the Dominion Observatory

After seeing Gordon Hudson's note in Newsletter No. 180, 20 December 2015, Dr Robin Adams kindly provided the following brief history of the Dominion Observatory.

"I was most interested to read in the Newsletter Gordon's plea for help with storage space. Naturally, I cannot help with that, but I was most interested in the notes about the Dominion Observatory, and would like to offer some comments of my own - there is a lot of information in an unattributed article (by George Eiby, no less) in Report No 161 of Geophysics Division of DSIR, published in 1980, commemorating the Division's first 25 years, 1951-76.

The original transit room, octagonal clock room and small office were completed in 1907, when the New Zealand Time Service, originally set up in 1864 on the waterfront, moved there from a site near Bolton Street Cemetery. The Time Service was originally run by Archdeacon Arthur Stock and from 1887 by Thomas King. When King retired in 1911 he was succeeded by my grandfather C E Adams, with the title Government Astronomer (his full name was Charles Edward Adams, but in the family he was known as Ted - he didn't gain his doctorate till 1917).

The site was that of the Gardens Battery, fortifications erected during the Russian scare of the 1890s - not the First World War. As seismology grew in significance the Time Service became incorporated in the Seismological Observatory (and my Grandfather became Government Astronomer and Seismologist), which in turn became part of the newly- formed Geophysics Division of DSIR in 1951.

During my time at the Seismological Observatory in the 1960s and 70s the main building housed the Time Service clocks, by then controlled by overseas radio signals rather than by astronomical observations, and the seismological workshops. The underground chambers, still labelled with "Shell Store" and "Cartridge Store" on the doors, housed the main instruments of the Wellington seismograph station, including those of the World Wide Standard Seismograph Network, sponsored by the US Government to help monitor nuclear explosions.

During my time at the observatory we managed to keep the site, and the nearby former Meteorological Office building, despite strong offers from other Government departments, but now the offices have moved to Lower Hutt as part of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science, and the instruments to more suitable locations."

10. Most Distant Galaxy Seen

By pushing NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe. This surprisingly bright, infant galaxy, named GN-z11, is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past, just 400 million years after the big bang. GN-z11 is located in the direction of the constellation of Ursa Major.

"We've taken a major step back in time, beyond what we'd ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three percent of its current age," explained principal investigator Pascal Oesch of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The team includes scientists from Yale University, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of California in Santa Cruz, California.

Astronomers are closing in on the first galaxies that formed in the universe. The new Hubble observations take astronomers into a realm that was once thought to be only reachable with NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

This measurement provides strong evidence that some unusual and unexpectedly bright galaxies found earlier in Hubble images are really at extraordinary distances. Previously, the team had estimated GN- z11's distance by determining its colour through imaging with Hubble and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Now, for the first time for a galaxy at such an extreme distance, the team used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to precisely measure the distance to GN-z11 spectroscopically by splitting the light into its component colours.

Astronomers measure large distances by determining the "redshift" of a galaxy. This phenomenon is a result of the expansion of the universe; every distant object in the universe appears to be receding from us because its light is stretched to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels through expanding space to reach our telescopes. The greater the redshift, the farther the galaxy.

"Our spectroscopic observations reveal the galaxy to be even farther away than we had originally thought, right at the distance limit of what Hubble can observe," said Gabriel Brammer of STScI, second author of the study.

Before astronomers determined the distance for GN-z11, the most distant galaxy measured spectroscopically had a redshift of 8.68 (13.2 billion years in the past). Now, the team has confirmed GN-z11 to be at a redshift of 11.1, nearly 200 million years closer to the time of the big bang. "This is an extraordinary accomplishment for Hubble. It managed to beat all the previous distance records held for years by much larger ground-based telescopes," said investigator Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University. "This new record will likely stand until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope."

The combination of Hubble's and Spitzer's imaging reveals that GN-z11 is 25 times smaller than the Milky Way and has just one percent of our galaxy's mass in stars. However, the newborn GN-z11 is growing fast, forming stars at a rate about 20 times greater than our galaxy does today. This makes such an extremely remote galaxy bright enough for astronomers to find and perform detailed observations with both Hubble and Spitzer.

The results reveal surprising new clues about the nature of the very early universe. "It's amazing that a galaxy so massive existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the very first stars started to form. It takes really fast growth, producing stars at a huge rate, to have formed a galaxy that is a billion solar masses so soon," explained investigator Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

These findings provide a tantalizing preview of the observations that the James Webb Space Telescope will perform after it is launched into space in 2018. "Hubble and Spitzer are already reaching into Webb territory,"Oesch said. "This new discovery shows that the Webb telescope will surely find many such young galaxies reaching back to when the first galaxies were forming," added Illingworth.

This discovery also has important consequences for NASA's planned Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which will have the ability to find thousands of such bright, very distant galaxies.

The team's findings appeared in the March 8, 2016, edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

-- A Space Telescope Science Institute press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Radio Astronomy's 70th Anniversary

January 26, 2016 marked the 70th anniversary of the first radio astronomy interferometry done by radio astronomers in the world.

A sea cliff interferometer was used by Ruby Payne-Scott at Dover Heights, Sydney at sunrise 26 January 1946. Strong Type I bursts (1 million Jansky) were observed, arising from a large sunspot. The paper was submitted to the Proceedings of the Royal Society on 22 July 1946 and published 22 August 1947 by the CSIR (pre-CSIRO) Division of Radiophysics team of Lindsay McCready, Joe Pawsey and Ruby Payne-Scott (observations by Payne-Scott).

-- From a note by Miller Goss, (U.S.) National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, New Mexico, circulated by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

12. Head-on Collision Made Moon

The Moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a 'planetary embryo' called Theia approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, UCLA geochemists and colleagues report.

Scientists had already known about this high-speed crash, which occurred almost 4.5 billion years ago, but many thought the Earth collided with Theia (pronounced THAY-eh) at an angle of 45 degrees or more -- a powerful side-swipe (simulated in a 2012 YouTube video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwl_JBQtH9o]). New evidence reported January 29 in the journal Science substantially strengthens the case for a head-on assault.

The researchers analysed seven rocks brought to the Earth from the Moon by the Apollo 12, 15 and 17 missions, as well as six volcanic rocks from the Earth's mantle -- five from Hawaii and one from Arizona.

The key to reconstructing the giant impact was a chemical signature revealed in the rocks' oxygen atoms. (Oxygen makes up 90 percent of rocks¹ volume and 50 percent of their weight.) More than 99.9 percent of Earth's oxygen is O-16, so called because each atom contains eight protons and eight neutrons. But there also are small quantities of heavier oxygen isotopes: O-17, which have one extra neutron, and O-18, which have two extra neutrons. Earth, Mars and other planetary bodies in our solar system each has a unique ratio of O-17 to O-16 -- each one a distinctive 'fingerprint'.

In 2014, a team of German scientists reported in Science that the Moon also has its own unique ratio of oxygen isotopes, different from Earth's. The new research finds that is not the case.

"We don't see any difference between the Earth's and the Moon's oxygen isotopes; they're indistinguishable," said Edward Young, lead author of the new study and a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry.

Young's research team used state-of-the-art technology and techniques to make extraordinarily precise and careful measurements, and verified them with UCLA's new mass spectrometer.

The fact that oxygen in rocks on the Earth and our Moon share chemical signatures was very telling, Young said. Had Earth and Theia collided in a glancing side blow, the vast majority of the Moon would have been made mainly of Theia, and the Earth and Moon should have different oxygen in isotopes. A head-on collision, however, likely would have resulted in similar chemical composition of both Earth and the Moon.

"Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the Moon, and evenly dispersed between them," Young said. "This explains why we don't see a different signature of Theia in the Moon versus the Earth."

Theia, which did not survive the collision (except that it now makes up large parts of Earth and the Moon) was growing and probably would have become a planet if the crash had not occurred, Young said. Young and some other scientists believe the planet was approximately the same size as the Earth; others believe it was smaller, perhaps more similar in size to Mars.

Another interesting question is whether the collision with Theia removed any water that the early Earth may have contained. After the collision -- perhaps tens of millions of year later -- small asteroids likely hit the Earth, including ones that may have been rich in water, Young said. Collisions of growing bodies occurred very frequently back then, he said, although Mars avoided large collisions.

A head-on collision was initially proposed in 2012 by Matija Cuk, now a research scientist with the SETI Institute, and Sarah Stewart, now a professor at UC Davis; and, separately during the same year by Robin Canup of the Southwest Research Institute.

Reference: 'Oxygen Isotopic Evidence for Vigorous Mixing During the Moon-Forming Giant Impact,' Edward D. Young et al., 2016 Jan. 29, Science [http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6272/493].

-- From a UCLA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Old Stars´ Fossil Fields

Astronomers have confirmed that strong magnetic fields are frozen in place deep inside aging stars.

Stars like the Sun puff up and become red giants towards the end of their lives, so they're much larger even though the masses don't really change. The red giants ("old" Suns) of the same mass as the Sun do not show strong magnetic fields in their interior, but for stars slightly more massive, up to 60% host strong magnetic fields.

Stars create magnetic fields through convection, the swirling, Ferris- wheel-like motion of hot, ionized gas (or boiling water, for that matter). Where convection happens in a star depends on how massive the star is: low-mass stars, including the Sun, have convective outer envelopes around a non-convective core, but stars a little bulkier - up to a couple Suns´ worth - do have convective cores.

Recently, Jim Fuller (Caltech) and colleagues found that strong core magnetic fields could explain the oddly weak, on-and-off brightening behaviour of a sample of red giant stars. These stars are low- to middle-mass and have stopped fusing hydrogen in their centres, so they don´t have convective hearts. They also often have a mismatched, variable glow, with one hemisphere brightening as the other fades. What was strange about the sample the team looked at was that this group didn´t vary as much in brightness as it should have.

Now, Dennis Stello (University of Sydney and Aarhus University, Denmark), Fuller, and their team has expanded this work to 3,600 red giants, observed with the Kepler spacecraft. The astronomers found that here, too, some red giants had "muffled" variations, but just how much they were suppressed depended on how massive the star was. For stars just above the Sun´s mass and lighter, the stars looked normal. But for the heftiest of the sample - 1.6 to 2 solar masses - about half are "depressed," the team reported January 6th at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, and in the January 21st Nature.

This mass boundary between "normal" and "depressed" red giants is also the transition point from non-convective to convective cores. So this result is a nice confirmation that astronomers can track the strength of a star´s internal magnetic field using these brightness patterns. That prospect excites researchers, because magnetic fields play a big role in stars´ evolution and death, but astronomers don´t understand the details.

However, as noted, red giants don´t have convective cores. But they used to, before their central hydrogen-fusion furnaces shut off. So the fields muffling the variations are fossils. Magnetic fields are like strings, Fuller says, and they get twisted and tangled by the churning, convective plasma. Once this boiling motion disappears, the field essentially freezes in place. So long as there are no big, bulk motions to disrupt the field, it should just stay put.

What the team doesn´t know is whether these fossil fields will survive once the stars kick-start core helium fusion, which is the next stage in their aging process. If the fields do survive, they might be the source of the strong magnetism detected in some white dwarfs, which are the final state these red giants are approaching. The fields might also explain the "extra internal mixing" that seems to go on in some red giants and their older siblings.

Reference: Stello, Dennis et al. "A prevalence of dynamo-generated magnetic fields in the cores of intermediate-mass stars." Nature. January 21, 2016.

See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/old-stars-fossil-fields-2101201623/

-- From the above article by Camille M. Carlisle.

14. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

15. Previously Unknown Cluster of Nothingness Discovered

WASHINGTON - Saying the finding would further scientists´ understanding of the most remote parts of the universe, NASA astronomers announced at a press conference Thursday that they had discovered a previously unknown cluster of nothingness in deep space. "Through the use of high-resolution infrared imaging, we have identified a large grouping of total emptiness roughly 8.5 billion light-years away that had heretofore gone undetected," said NASA lead researcher Edward Hefter, adding that the newly discovered blank expanse, which is located between two immense regions of nothing, was far larger and more insignificant in scope than first thought. "We are continuing to investigate the age and origin of the emptiness, but it will be a slow process given that there is absolutely nothing in the cluster to study. However, initial data indicate that the space likely formed when a smaller void merged with a larger vacuum." Hefter added that the distant cluster of nothingness strongly resembles 481 million similar such regions discovered in recent decades.

See the original article with image at http://www.theonion.com/article/astronomers-discover-previously-unknown-cluster-no-51875

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

March 2016

Log in or become an RASNZ member to access this Southern Stars issue.

Astronomy from Antarctica
Matthew Freeman
Volume 55, number 1. March 2016. p3

 

The First Annual Central Star Party
Ursula Macfarlane, Otto Gruebl, George Ionas
Volume 55, number 1. March 2016. p7

 

Zodiac Stamps
R W Evans
Volume 55, number 1. March 2016. p9

 

The RASNZ Long-term Plan, 2016-25
John Hearhshaw
Volume 55, number 1. March 2016. p10

 

The RASNZ Annual Report of Council for 2015
Volume 55, number 1. March 2016. p12

 


RASNZ Electronic Newsletter February 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 182

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Gravitational Waves Detected
2. New Windows on the Universe
3. The Solar System in March
4. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
5. Two Faint Comets Nearby in March
6. Variable Stars South Symposium 4
7. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories
8. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History
9. How to Join the RASNZ
10. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Quotes.

1. Gravitational Waves Detected

On February 11 physicists announced the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity. Two massive accelerating objects - in this case, a pair of stellar-mass black holes spiralling into each other - passed through spacetime like paddles sweeping through water, creating vibrations that could (barely) be felt on Earth. The results are published in Physical Review Letters.

It's been a recurring theme in history: When scientists open a new window on the universe, they make transformative discoveries. But when LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, caught waves from these two colliding black holes, it didn't just open a new window - it smashed a door wide open, promising a breathtaking new ability to study exotic and otherwise-undetectable cosmic phenomena. Don't be surprised if LIGO's founders, Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever, and Rainer Weiss, earn free round-trip tickets to Stockholm to collect a Nobel Prize.

LIGO consists of two L-shaped facilities, one near Hanford, Washington state, and the other near Livingston, Louisiana. At 09:50:45 UTC on 14 September 2015, both labs caught the gravitational-wave signature of two colliding black holes, shortly after both facilities were turned on following five years of intensive upgrades.

A series of gravitational waves from a distant galaxy first passed through the Livingston detector, then just 7 milliseconds later it passed through the detector in Hanford. Both instruments shoot infrared lasers through 4-kilometer-long arms of near-perfect vacuum. The laser light reflects off ultrapure, superpolished, and seismically isolated quartz mirrors. The passing gravitational waves slightly altered the path lengths in the arms of both detectors by about 1/1,000 the width of a proton. That slight change created a characteristic interference pattern in the laser light, an event LIGO scientists have dubbed GW150914.

LIGO didn't watch the whole many-year-long dance of the black hole duo, but it did see the last few cycles of the death spiral, the merger itself, and the "ringing" effect as the merged black hole settled into its new form.

Based on the signal's amplitude (that is, the height of the gravitational wave), team members estimate that the colliding black holes had the masses of about 36 and 29 Suns, respectively. Milliseconds before they merged, these behemoths spun around each other at nearly the speed of light. LIGO watched all three predicted phases of the collision: the black holes' death spiral and ensuring merger, as well as the ringing of the merged object as it settled into its new form.

The merged black hole contains about 62 solar masses, so it's short three solar masses - the gravitational waves themselves carried away three solar masses worth of energy. At its peak, the merging pair were radiating 50 times more energy than the rest of the universe.

The minuscule difference in the waves' arrival times at the two facilities was exactly what's expected for gravitational waves, which travel at the speed of light. The LIGO team claims a 5.1-sigma detection, meaning the odds of the signal occurring by chance are about one in 3.5 million.

With only two detectors, LIGO can't pinpoint the source's exact location or host galaxy - it could come from anywhere within about 600 square degrees of sky, somewhere near the Large Magellanic Cloud in the Southern Hemisphere sky. Nor can they exactly pinpoint its distance, but measurements show the source lies between 700 million and 1.6 billion light-years away.

The direct detection of gravitational waves opens up an entirely new spectrum that doesn't involve any form of light. "It's a spectrum that carries entirely new kinds of information that have so far been largely invisible," says physicist Robert Owen (Oberlin College). Or, as Eric Katsavounidis (MIT and LIGO team member) puts it, "This is the end of the silent-movie era in astronomy."

Previously, radio astronomers studying pairs of neutron stars, the crushed, spinning remains of massive stars, had revealed compelling indirect evidence of gravitational waves. Einstein's general theory of relativity says that gravitational waves should carry away orbital energy, and indeed, these pulsars' orbits spiral inward at exactly the rate relativity predicts. Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the first of these systems. But direct detection has remained elusive because of the incredible difficulty of catching gravitational waves. Merging binaries involving black holes or neutron stars generate stupendous amounts of energy. "In terms of gravitational waves, for that one millisecond prior to merger, this binary black hole system was 'brighter' than all the rest of the universe combined!" Owen says.

But the waves are incredibly difficult to detect because gravity is the weakest of the four known forces of nature, the strength of the waves fall off sharply as they traverse space, and because matter barely feels the presence of gravitational waves. "The gravitational waves from a distant galaxy that are detectable to LIGO are squeezing and stretching the Milky Way Galaxy by the width of your thumb," says LIGO science team member Chad Hanna (Penn State University).

The U.S. National Science Foundation-funded $500 million LIGO experiment has been on the lookout for gravitational waves since 2002. But only recently, after a five-year rebuild and redesign to improve LIGO's sensitivity, did the facilities have a realistic chance of catching these subtle spacetime ripples. LIGO began its first "advanced" observing run last September, but improvements continue and future runs will have at least twice the sensitivity and enable LIGO to survey ten times the volume of space.

Theorists predict Advanced LIGO should catch an additional five binary black hole mergers in its next observing run. They also expect roughly 40 binary neutron star mergers every year it runs, and an unknown number of signals from black hole-neutron star mergers and supernovae. It's even possible that LIGO could detect exotic cosmic strings.

The direct detection of gravitational waves represents another triumph for Einstein, almost exactly 100 years after he predicted their existence - and despite the fact that he never thought they'd be detected. But as LIGO builds up a catalogue of events in the coming years, and as other advanced detectors come online in Europe and Japan, physicists will be scrutinizing the waveforms in detail to see how closely they conform to general relativity's predictions.

Though this black hole merger went entirely according to Einstein's predictions, scientists hope to eventually see discrepancies that could provide vital clues to new physics, potentially reconciling contradictions between relativity and quantum theory.

"Gravitational-wave measurements will allow us to directly probe some of the most violent events in the universe, to directly measure the most tumultuous dynamics of spacetime geometry," says Owen. "Gravitational waves would allow us to probe how spacetime really behaves under the most radical of circumstances."

LIGO will prove a gold mine for astronomers: enabling them to study and build up a census of neutron stars, stellar-mass black holes, and other dim or otherwise impossible-to-detect objects in faraway galaxies. And LIGO also offers the tantalizing prospect of discovering new types of objects and phenomena hitherto unknown to science.

"We want to give ourselves plenty of opportunity to be surprised," says Hanna. "We don't want to open a new window to the universe and then refuse to look outside because we think we know what we'll see. We expect the bread-and-butter sources, but we certainly hope it doesn't stop there."

See http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/gravitational-wave-detection-heralds-new-era-of-science-0211201644/with many diagrams and links.

-- Based on the above article by Robert Naeye on Sky & Telescope's webpage.

A few of the many articles on the news are listed below. http://www.nature.com/news/einstein-s-gravitational-waves-found-at-last-1.19361 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-11/einstein's-gravitational-waves:-what-do-they-mean/7159238 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/einsteins-gravitational-waves-detected-in-major-breakthrough/news-story/ab0295587d9a8f7c0585b2aa73e3929c

and all about that chirp: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/gravitational-waves-how-they-sound-and-why-scientists-are-going-nuts-20160211-gms4bc.html

-- From Virginia Kilborn, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

2. New Windows on the Universe

As researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announce they have spotted gravitational waves - ripples in space itself set off by violent astrophysical events - University of Canterbury Professor of Physics Dr David Wiltshire discusses what it means.

The announcement that gravitational waves have been directly captured for the first time ever, from the collision of two black holes, opens a new age of astronomy. From now on we will be able to "listen" to the Universe with "ears" that are not limited by the electromagnetic spectrum, completely changing our understanding. It is a moment in history every bit as important as when Galileo first pointed his telescope at the stars and planets, or when the first radio, X-ray, infrared or gamma ray telescopes were first turned on by 20th century astronomers.

It is also a story of many human triumphs. For Albert Einstein, whose theory of general relativity first predicted gravitational waves exactly 100 years ago, it is a triumph. For New Zealander Roy Kerr, who found the solution of Einstein's equations which describes rotating black holes, but had to struggle to be listened to by astronomers on announcing his result in a 10-minute conference talk in 1963, it is a triumph. For the numerical relativists, such as Frans Pretorius at Princeton who in 2005 solved a decades-long struggle of how to split space and time in Einstein's equations on a computer, to determine how gravitational waves are produced when black holes collide, it is a triumph.

And above all, for the hundreds, the thousands of ingenious and skilled experimental physicists who have struggled with their lasers, mirrors and suspensions for decades to make the most sensitive measurements ever achieved by humankind, it is a triumph. We have now made a measurement so sensitive it's like measuring the width of a human hair at the distance of Alpha Centauri.

What will we discover? Most exciting are the unknown unknowns. But the known unknowns include most of the black holes in the Universe.

By definition a black hole is an object so dense that nothing can escape, not even light. That makes them often impossible to detect. In the centres of all galaxies there are supermassive black holes. The one in our own Milky Way weighs in at 4.3 million solar masses, and is so close that we can work out its mass by observing the orbits of nearby stars.

In distant galaxies we cannot resolve individual stars. But when the Universe was younger and full of gas, there was a lot more material available to fall into and create the huge black holes in galactic centres. This stuff formed accretion disks of material swirling in, and huge jets of energetic charged particles accelerated by magnetic fields from the poles of the rotating black holes. These form quasars, the most energetic and violent phenomena since the Big Bang.

Everything we know about black holes comes from observing accretion disks around supermassive ones. It is for this that Roy Kerr of the University of Canterbury and Roger Blandford of Stanford University share this year's Crafoord Prize in Astronomy from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. [See last Month's Newsletter.]

Every galaxy in the Universe has only one supermassive black hole in the centre, but many millions of smaller black holes about which we know almost nothing - until now.

Most black holes we will never detect, but a small fraction of them - like the ones just observed - come in pairs. These orbit each other for hundreds of millions of years, before spiralling in and merging into a single rotating black hole whose surface wobbles like a bell, radiating copious gravitational waves in the process - a whole three suns worth of energy in the event just detected. In the final fleeting milliseconds of merger and ringdown black holes' secrets are revealed. This is the most spectacular direct observation of the existence of rotating black holes ever.

Some people ask: what such measurements are good for? Actually, they provide a laboratory that is impossible to create on Earth. In addition to learning about black holes, once we catch two neutron stars colliding, or a neutron star and a black hole, we will discover heaps about the properties of nuclear matter at high density from the gravitational waves produced. There are big gaps in our knowledge there. Until we actually understand the fundamental physics, it is impossible to know what we might ultimately do with it.

In a world that is struggling with war, climate change and the limits of finite resources, the money put into big science projects like LIGO is often questioned. But satisfying human curiosity, to understand the Universe and our place in it is what makes us human in the first place, regardless of what we might do with the knowledge we gain.

Furthermore, big science teaches us to solve big problems by working as teams spread across the globe. Each group of researchers has their own culture, and barriers sometimes take years to break down. This project is vast in its complexity of human interactions: experimental physicists, engineers, mathematicians, numerical modellers, theoretical physicists and astronomers have all played roles which were each essential to its success. That surely has lessons not only for opening a new age of astronomy, but also for ultimately solving the many big problems we have created on this planet.

See David's original article at http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2016/02/12/new-windows-on-the-universe-prof-david-wiltshire/ David's interview with Kim Hill on Saturday Feb. 13th is http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201789144/david-wiltshire-gravitational-waves-and-black-holes

3. The Solar System in March

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in march

                        March  1  NZDT                   March 31  NZDT
              morning        evening         morning       evening
      SUN: rise:   6.59am,  set:  8.06pm   rise: 7.33am,  set: 7.16pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.34am, ends: 8.32pm   starts: 7.09am, ends: 7.42pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.00am, ends: 9.06pm   starts: 6.36am, ends: 8.17pm 
 Astro:    starts: 5.25am, ends: 9.41pm   starts: 6.03am, ends: 8.46pm

March PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  March  2 at 12.11 pm (Mar  1, 23:11 UT)
  New moon:      March  9 at  2.55 pm (01:55 UT)
  First quarter: March 16 at  6.03 am (Mar 15, 17:03 UT) 
  Full moon:     March 24 at  1.01 am (Mar 23, 12:01 UT) 
  Last quarter   April  1 at  4.17 am (Mar 31, 15:17 UT)

ECLIPSES in March

March 9: Total eclipse of the Sun. The path of totality crosses southern Sumatra soon after sunrise then crosses southern Borneo and the Celebes. It then heads east and northeast across the Pacific to end at sunset to the north of Hawaii. The maximum length of totality is 4 minutes 9 seconds. A partial eclipse is visible from most of southeast Asia including Japan and from most of Alaska. In the south a partial eclipse is visible from Australia except the south and southeast. A map showing the path is available on the RASNZ web site.

March 23/24: A partial penumbral eclipse of the moon. At maximum only part of the moon passes into the penumbra of the Earth's shadow. No part is totally eclipsed. The decrease in brightness of the moon will be small and it is unlikely any change will be noticed by eye. The eclipse starts at 10.39 pm NZDT, maximum eclipse is at 12.47 am, the eclipse ends at 2.55 am NZDT. The moon is visible throughout the eclipse in New Zealand and in Australia except the start in Western Australia.

THE PLANETS in March Jupiter is at opposition on March 8 so will be visible all evening by the end of the month. Mars will rise late evening, it and the other planets are in the morning sky. By the end of the month Mercury will have disappeared while Saturn will rise before midnight.

MERCURY rises about 90 minutes before the Sun on March 1st. 45 minutes before sunrise the planet, magnitude -0.3, will be some 8.5° above the horizon in a direction a little to the south of east. Mercury will be 9° below and slightly to the right of Venus.

Mercury will steadily close in on the Sun during the first 3 weeks of March. By the 11th, now at magnitude -0.7, the planet will be only a couple of degrees up 45 minutes before sunrise. It will still be a few degrees below Venus.

On March 24, Mercury will be at superior conjunction, 202 million km from the Earth and some 53 million km beyond the Sun. After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object setting after the Sun. By the 31st it will set about half an hour later, so is not likely to be visible despite its -1.6 magnitude.

VENUS rises nearly 2 hours before the Sun on March 1, reducing to 90 minutes earlier on the 31st. As a result the planet will remain easily visible low in the dawn sky all month. It starts the month in Capricornus but moves into Aquarius on the 11th. On the morning of the 21st, Venus will be half a degree to the right of Neptune. This may give an opportunity to find Neptune using binoculars.

On the morning of March 7 the 7% lit crescent moon will be 8.5° to the upper left of Venus. By the following morning the moon will be only 2.4% lit and 6.8° below Venus. Also Mercury will be 6° to the right of and a little lower than the moon.

MARS rises close to 11 pm on the 1st advancing to 9:45 pm by the 31st so will then be visible to the east late evening. It will also brighten during the month from magnitude 0.3 to -0.5 as the distance between Earth and Mars decreases.

The planet starts March in Libra but moves on into Scorpius on March 13. By the 31st Mars will be 6° from Antares and considerably brighter than its rival star.

The moon makes a close approach to Mars on the night of February 29/March 1 At midnight the 64% lit waning moon will 5.5 degrees to the left of Mars. Six hours later the moon, now 62% lit will be 4 below the planet.

A second close approach of the moon to Mars occurs on the night of 28/29 March. For New Zealand viewers the two are closest shortly before dawn when the 78% lit moon will be 4.8 degrees below Mars.

JUPITER is at opposition on March 10, so will then be visible all night. At opposition Jupiter will be 663.5 million km (4.435 AU) from the Earth and nearly another 150 million km further from the Sun.

By the end of the month Jupiter will rise an hour before the Sun making it well placed for viewing by the time the sky darkens. The planet will be in Leo moving to the west. The almost full moon will be a few degrees from Jupiter on the 22nd. Early evening the two will be 3 degrees apart with the moon to the right of Jupiter. Their distance apart will increase during the rest of the night as the moon moves away from the planet.

SATURN begins to move into the evening sky during March. At the start of the month it rises just after midnight, by the end it will rise at 10.20 pm. The planet is in Ophiuchus all month about 9° from Antares and, at the end of March, a similar distance from Mars.

The north pole of Saturn is tilted at an angle of over 26 degrees towards the Earth. The ring system is consequently wide open and readily visible in a small telescope.

The moon passes Saturn twice during the month. On the morning of March 3 the 43% lit moon will be 6 degrees below Saturn at about 4 am, the distance apart increasing to 7 degrees shortly before sunrise. For NZ viewers the two bodies will be closer on the morning of March 30 with the two less than 4 degrees apart at 4 am. Late evening shortly after they rise, the two will 4.5 degrees apart.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during March at magnitude 5.9. It sets just after 8.30 pm, 90 minutes after the Sun, on the 1st. So it will be low by the time the sky darkens. By the end of March the planet will set only 20 minutes after the Sun.

NEPTUNE moves up into the dawn sky during March. At first it will rise only 40 minutes before the Sun, increasing to a good 2.5 hours by the end of the month.

The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 8.0. As Neptune moves up in the sky it will be passed by Venus. On the morning of March 21 the two will be only half a degree apart with Venus to the right of Neptune, the latter slightly lower. There will be no stars brighter than Neptune between the two, although the magnitude 3.7 star lambda Aqr will be 1.5 degrees below it. The window of opportunity to see Neptune in binoculars close to Venus will be fairly short between the time Venus becomes visible and the sky getting too bright to see Neptune.

On the previous morning, the 20th, Venus will be just over a degree above Neptune and on the 22nd it will be a similar distance to the lower right of the faint planet. On the 19th and 23rd the separation will be about 2.5 degrees.

Minor planets

(4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, starts March in Pisces, moves into Cetus on the 13th and on into Aries the last day of the month. It is an evening object setting at 10.15 pm on the 1st. By the 31st it will set 90 minutes after the Sun. The crescent moon will be 5.5 degrees to the right of Vesta on March 12.

-- Brian Loader

5. Two Faint Comets Nearby in March

Two faint and probably related comets pass near the Earth in March. 252P/LINEAR passes 5.4 million km from Earth around the 20th. P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS) passes 3.6 million km from us around the 22nd. The ephemerides below give the comets' positions at UT dates and times e.g. March 15d 09h UT = March 15 10 pm NZDT.

252P/LINEAR                     252P/LINEAR 
Mar.UT R.A.(J2000)Decl.         March UT R.A.(J2000)Decl. 
 d   h  m  s   °   '  m1         d  h   h  m  s    °  '  m1
09  05 56 43  -59 58  11.0      22 09  17 13 11  -65 02  10.3
12  05 57 02  -60 32  11.0      22 12  17 14 34  -63 53  10.3
15  05 57 33  -61 07  11.0      22 15  17 15 34  -62 43  10.3
18  05 58 15  -61 42  11.0      22 18  17 16 19  -61 33  10.3
09  06 01 22  -65 01  10.9      23 09  17 20 46  -55 45  10.4
12  06 01 58  -65 41  10.8      23 12  17 21 31  -54 40  10.4
15  06 02 50  -66 22  10.8      23 15  17 22 02  -53 35  10.4
18  06 03 58  -67 04  10.8      23 18  17 22 24  -52 31  10.4
09  06 09 49  -70 58  10.7      24 09  17 25 02  -47 16  10.5
12  06 11 08  -71 45  10.7      24 12  17 25 30  -46 18  10.5
15  06 12 54  -72 33  10.6      24 15  17 25 49  -45 21  10.5
18  06 15 10  -73 22  10.6      24 18  17 26 00  -44 25  10.6
09  06 29 48  -77 53  10.5                                   
12  06 33 53  -78 47  10.5      P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS)      
15  06 39 18  -79 41  10.5      March                        
18  06 46 28  -80 37  10.5       UT    R.A.(J2000)Decl.      
                                 d  h   h  m  s    °  '   m1 
09  08 05 34  -85 23  10.4      15 09  06 33 52  -25 07  15.0
12  08 43 05  -86 11  10.4      15 12  06 34 51  -24 51  15.0
15  09 39 35  -86 48  10.4      15 15  06 35 55  -24 35  15.0
18  10 59 07  -87 09  10.3                                   
09  06 43 08  -22 52  14.8
09  15 47 45  -83 57  10.3      16 12  06 44 22  -22 32  14.7
12  16 05 31  -82 55  10.3      16 15  06 45 42  -22 11  14.7
15  16 18 02  -81 50  10.3                                   
18  16 27 17  -80 42  10.3      17 09  06 54 47  -19 55  14.5
12  06 56 21  -19 29  14.4
09  16 56 11  -74 43  10.3      17 15  06 58 04  -19 01  14.4
12  16 59 32  -73 32  10.3                                   
15  17 02 04  -72 21  10.3      18 09  07 09 45  -15 54  14.1
18  17 04 03  -71 09  10.3      18 12  07 11 49  -15 17  14.1
09  17 13 11  -65 02  10.3      19 09  07 29 28  -10 17  13.8
12  17 14 34  -63 53  10.3      19 12  07 32 14  -09 25  13.7
15  17 15 34  -62 43  10.3                                   
18  17 16 19  -61 33  10.3      20 09  07 56 06  -02 17  13.4
12  07 59 54  -01 05  13.4
09  17 20 46  -55 45  10.4                                   
12  17 21 31  -54 40  10.4      21 09  08 32 44  +08 47  13.1
15  17 22 02  -53 35  10.4      21 12  08 38 00  +10 23  13.1
18  17 22 24  -52 31  10.4                                   
09  09 22 55  +22 26  12.9
09  17 25 02  -47 16  10.5      22 12  09 30 01  +24 12  12.9
12  17 25 30  -46 18  10.5                                   
15  17 25 49  -45 21  10.5      23 09  10 27 51  +35 35  13.0
18  17 26 00  -44 25  10.6      23 12  10 36 31  +37 00  13.0

From meteoroid trail models Quan-Zhi Ye, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Western Ontario, suggests that meteors from P/2016 BA14 might radiate from geocentric radiant R.A. = 5h.5 (82 deg), Decl. = -39 deg with a geocentric velocity 14.1 km/s. The most probable time for meteor activity would be around the late hours of 2016 Mar. 20 UT. (Central Bureau Electronic Telegram 4259.)

4. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

6. Variable Stars South Symposium 4

Variable Stars South Symposium 4 is one day of papers covering the observation and analysis of variable stars. It is being held Friday 25th March (Good Friday) at the Law School, University of Sydney. Results of instrumental (CCD and DSLR) and visual observing will be presented. Some of the types of variable stars being discussed are southern eclipsing binaries, evolving stars and irregular variables; some examples of stars being discussed are EB V0626 Sco and V0775 Cen, BC Gru; RR Sco, QZ Car, Theta Aps, WZ Sgr, RZ Vel, DI Car, SN1987A.There will also be additional presentations in poster papers available for discussion in the break sessions.

As well as the presentations at this event there is the opportunity for you to meet and discuss informally issues and techniques with practitioners in their field.

The VSS Symposium is being held in conjunction with the Australian NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) Conference. For the VSS Programme go to www.nacaa.org.au select the 2016 tab, then go to the LHS - Programme - Friday. The NACAA programme on Saturday and Sunday is also detailed on the website, along with full information on the Conference.

-- Alan Baldwin.

7. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories

Peter Aldous, Geraldine, South Canterbury, writes: I am offering for sale my 12-foot dome with the following accessories for $4,000. The accessories include Digital Dome works dome automation package (original cost $2940); AAG cloud sensor ($746); shutter motor ($897); power supply ($166); four electric motors ($1794). The total value of accessories is $6543.

Contact Peter Aldous This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; phone 03 693 7337.

8. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History

Wayne Orchiston writes:-

Springer has just published the following book Orchiston, W., 2016. Exploring the History of New Zealand Astronomy: Trials, Tribulations, Telescopes and Transits. Pp. xlv + 688, 397 illustrations.

This book spans the period from the Maori settlement of Aotearao/New Zealand, through to about 1960. As well as dealing with Maori astronomy and the nautical astronomy associated with Cook's three voyages, it identifies Wellington's first European astronomers and New Zealand's oldest surviving astronomical observatory, and discusses the emergence of professional astronomy in New Zealand, historically- significant telescopes now in New Zealand, the 1874 and 1882 transits of Venus, the 1885 total solar eclipse, some of the nation's leading amateur astronomers and telescope-makers (e.g. John Grigg, Ronald McIntosh, Joseph Ward and C.J. Westland), and pioneering efforts in radio astronomy during the 1940s.

Note that Springer is offering a special 20% discount price to readers of the RASNZ e-Newsletter. This offer will run for one month, starting with the publication of this Newsletter. Use the following token on springer.com xykH7xQj9MGQTz5 (valid 20 February 2016 - 21 March 2016).

Printed book hardcover 129,99 EUR | £117.00 | $179.00 eBook available from your library or springer.com/shop. MyCopy printed eBook for just EUR|$ 24.99 from springer.com/mycopy .

For a copy of the book's flyer, with price and discount details -- a 2.8 MB PDF -- email the Newsletter editor. Address at end.

9. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

10. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

12. Quotes

"If you cannot - in the long run - tell everyone what you have been doing, then your doing has been worthless." -- Erwin Schrödinger.

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" -- Albert Einstein.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter February 2016 enews201602 2016-02-21 12:00:00

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter January 2016

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 181

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Roy Kerr Shares Crafoord Prize in Astronomy
2. RASNZ is Still Looking for an Archive Space
3. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize
4. 2016 Nominations for Council
5. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8
6. The Solar System in February
7. Variable Stars South Symposium 4
8. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
9. The Most Distant Solar System Planet Found (so far)
10. Closest Potentially Habitable Exo-Planet (so far)
11. Aliens in Globs?
12. Time's Pick of Most Beautiful Space Photos
13. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories
14. NZ's First Professional Telescope Maker
15. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History
16. How to Join the RASNZ
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
19. Quotes.

1. Roy Kerr Shares Crafoord Prize in Astronomy

The Crafoord Prize in Astronomy has been awarded to Roy Kerr and Roger Blandford. Canterbury University's Head of Physics and Astronomy notes that it is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Astronomy, and Kerr's award may well be the biggest prize awarded to anyone at Canterbury for over a century! Rutherford was a former student.

Black holes are the origin of the universe´s most powerful light, with rays that can stretch many thousands of light years out into space. Roger Blandford´s theoretical work deals with the violent processes behind this strong radiation. Roy Kerr created one of the most important tools in modern astrophysics and cosmology early in his career, when he discovered a mathematical description of rotating black holes before anyone had even seen them.

Black holes are the strangest result of the general theory of relativity. When Albert Einstein finally presented his theory, in November 1915, he described gravity as a geometric property of space and time, spacetime. All massive space objects bend spacetime; they create a pit into which smaller objects can fall. The greater the mass, the deeper the pit. The mass of a black hole is so great that nothing that ends up in there can escape, not even light.

It took until 1963 for someone to solve Einstein´s equations for black holes that could possibly be found in the universe - rotating black holes - and it was mathematician Roy Kerr who succeeded. At about the same time, astronomers discovered galaxies that emitted light that was so strong it outshone several hundred ordinary galaxies. They were named quasars. Nothing other than a black hole could give the quasars their luminosity.

So how is the strong light of rotating black holes created? This question was answered by Roger Blandford in 1977. Ever since, he has refined and made more realistic models of how gas surrounding a black hole flows towards it, is heated up and transforms some of its gravitational energy to radiation. At the same time, electrically charged particles are sent millions of kilometres into space in the form of powerful jets. The source of all of this power is the rotational energy of the massive black hole.

Roy Kerr was born 1934 in Kurow, New Zealand. He got his PhD 1959 at University of Cambridge and is now Emeritus Professor at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Roger Blandford was born 1949 in Grantham, Great Britain; PhD at Cambridge in 1974.

See the Royal Swedish Academy's full press release at http://www.crafoordprize.se/press/arkivpressreleases/thecrafoordprizesinmathematicsandastronomy2016.5.76308e0c152098549fa15a0.html

2. RASNZ is Still Looking for an Archive Space

Gordon Hudson, RASNZ Archivist writes:

The RASNZ urgently needs a space to store its ever increasing Archive. The archive is currently stored in the World War I gun bunker under the Dominion Observatory in Wellington, close to Carter Observatory. This bunker is owned by the Department of Conservation. We have use of it for the next six months, having already occupied it for the past six months. We have access to one room only and we are out-growing this space. What RASNZ needs is a more permanent storage space at least for the next four years. Does anyone have any space they could lease to us at a low rental as we are a non-profit Society?

The current situation is that RASNZ does not have its own home where material can be stored and properly archived. The RASNZ is one of the few Astronomical Societies in NZ that does not have one. It used to reside in the Carter Observatory and that is still its registered office. A return to the Carter Observatory is no longer possible as it has now been taken over by the Wellington City Council.

The Wellington Astronomical Society is in the same situation. It also needs a home. Both the RASNZ and WAS were based at the Carter Observatory.

If you can help please contact Gordon Hudson RASNZ Archivist at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize

Nominations for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize are invited. This prize is awarded annually to a New Zealand resident who has made a contribution to astronomy in New Zealand. Nominations need to be sent to the Executive Secretary no later than 20 February 2015. The prize is normally awarded at the society´s conference dinner. More information can be found on the society´s web page http://www.rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/mg-prize

4. 2016 Nominations for Council

The current RASNZ Council term ends at the AGM in May next year. Nominations are called for Council for the period 2016-2018. Nominations are required for President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and five Councillors elected by members. The current President may not stand for a second consecutive term, but is on council ex-officio as a Vice-President. In addition there are two Affiliated Societies representatives on Council and these are elected at the Affiliated Societies Committees meeting(again in May next year) and one fellows representative, nominated by and elected by Fellows of the society.

All members and Fellows of the society are eligible to hold office, and may be nominated by any members or Fellows. Only Fellows may propose or second candidates for the Fellows´ representative on Council.

All nominations should show clearly the name of the candidate and position sought the names and signatures of the proposer and seconder and also includes the nominee´s signed consent. Nominees may also include a resume of not more than 200 words, which would be included with the voting paper in the event of a postal election. A nomination form is available from the Executive Secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Email nominations cannot be accepted as all nominations must be signed by the proposer, seconder and nominee. Nominations should be posted to the secretary to arrive no later than 20 February 2016 to the address given below. Should the number of nominations exceed the number of positions then a postal ballot will be conducted. Further information can be found on the website in the Rules and Bylaws http://www.rasnz.org.nz/images/articleFiles/Council/Rules2015.pdf

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. TUAKAU 2697 ----------

Does anyone want to be Newsletter Editor? - Ed.

5. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

It's time to register for Stardate SI, which will be held over a three day weekend from Feb 5-8. Dr Grant Christie is our special guest. Enjoy the friendship of fellow astronomers under an ink-black sky, hear talks, and relax in a holiday setting. More info and registration can be found at: http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

-- Euan Mason

6. The Solar System in February

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in february

                         February  1  NZDT             February 29  NZDT
                morning     evening            morning    evening
      SUN: rise:   6.23am,  set:  8.44pm   rise: 6.58am,  set: 8.07pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.55am, ends: 9.13pm  starts: 6.32am, ends: 8.34pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.17am, ends: 9.51pm  starts: 5.58am, ends: 9.07pm 
 Astro:    starts: 4.34am, ends:10.33pm  starts: 5.23am, ends: 9.43pm

February PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  February  1 at  4.28 pm (03:28 UT)
  New moon:      February  9 at  3.39 am (Feb  8, 14:39 UT)
  First quarter: February 15 at  8.47 pm (07:47 UT) 
  Full moon:     February 23 at  7.20 am (Feb 22, 18:20 UT)

The planets in February

Jupiter will be in the sky from soon after sunset by the end of February. The other planets remain objects of the morning sky. Venus and Mercury are a close pair in the dawn sky and will be an interesting to watch as their distance apart vary during the month. The asteroid (5) Astraea is at a particularly good opposition mid-February.

MERCURY and VENUS form a pair of planets rather low in the dawn sky throughout February. At the beginning of the month both planets will be in Sagittarius. During February they move into Capricornus, Mercury on the 14th and Venus three mornings later.

On the morning of the 1st, Mercury rises almost 2 hours before the Sun, with Venus rising some 35 minutes earlier. Mercury will be half a degree below the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr, with Venus some 7 degrees above Mercury.

During the first half of February Venus will close in on Mercury until the two are some 4 degrees apart mid-month. After that as Mercury's rate of motion increases it will draw further ahead of Venus until the two are again 7 degrees apart by the end of the month. Mercury will remain a few degrees below Venus and a little to its right all month.

Mercury's magnitude brightens from 0.1 to -0.3 during February. It reaches its greatest elongation, 26 degrees west of the Sun on the 7th. By the end of February Mercury rises some 95 minutes before the Sun, with Venus rising half an hour earlier. An hour before sunrise, Mercury will be only 6 degrees above the horizon

MARS rises half an hour after midnight on the 1st advancing to 11:45 pm by the 29th. The planet is in Libra, near the wide binary star alpha Lib at the beginning of the month. The two are closest on the 2nd when Mars, magnitude 0.8, will be a degree below the pair, with the 45% lit moon 4.5 degrees lower than Mars. For the rest of the month Mars makes its way eastwards through Libra but doesn't pass close to any bright stars.

At midnight on the 29th February the moon will again be near Mars, some 5.5 degrees from the planet which will have brightened to magnitude 0.3. A few hours later, on the morning of March 1, the two will be 4 degrees apart

JUPITER is in Leo during February. On the 1st it rises about 10.20 pm, by the end of February it will rise almost 2 hours earlier, some 15 minutes after the Sun sets, so the planet should be readily visible by mid evening.

In the late evening of February 24, the almost full moon will be 4 degrees to the left of Jupiter; their separation increases to 6.5 degrees a little before sunrise the following morning when Jupiter will appear below the moon.

SATURN rises shortly after 2 am on the 1st and 20 minutes after midnight on the 29th. So it is still a morning object. The planet is in Ophiuchus about 8 degrees below Antares, as seen in the morning sky. At magnitude 0.5, Saturn is a little brighter than the star.

On the morning of February 4, the 26% lit moon will be 4 degrees to the lower left of Saturn

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during February at magnitude 5.9. It is an evening object setting just before 11.30 pm on the 1st and just after 8.30 pm, 90 minutes after the Sun, on the 29th.

NEPTUNE, in Aquarius, sets about 70 minutes after the Sun on February 1. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 29th. At conjunction Neptune will be half a degree south of the Sun as seen from Earth. The planet will then be 4.63 billion km, 30.95 AU, from Earth and 29.95 AU beyond the Sun.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (4) Vesta, magnitude 8.3, starts February in Cetus. On the 1st, Vesta will set just before midnight. Early in the month the asteroid is just over 5 degrees from Uranus. On the 12th Vesta joins Uranus in Pisces but their distance apart will gradually increase. By February 29 Vesta will set about 10.20 pm.

(5) Astraea. This 125 km diameter asteroid is in Leo and starts February at magnitude 9.3. On the 1st it will rise at 9.19 pm at Wellington. The asteroid will then be just over half a degree above Regulus, mag 1.4, with no other star as bright as Astraea between the two. This will make finding Astraea fairly easy in the late evening.

Astraea is at opposition mid February with a magnitude 8.7. By then it will be some 3 degrees left of Regulus as seen late evening. At opposition it will be 2.086 AU from the Sun, very close to its perihelion, and 1.1 AU from Earth. The relatively close approach makes this a particularly favourable opposition for observation. By the end of February, Astraea will be back to magnitude 9.3

-- Brian Loader

7. Variable Stars South Symposium 4

Variable Stars South Symposium 4 is one day of papers covering the observation and analysis of variable stars. It is being held Friday 25th March (Good Friday) at the Law School, University of Sydney. Results of instrumental (CCD and DSLR) and visual observing will be presented. Some of the types of variable stars being discussed are southern eclipsing binaries, evolving stars and irregular variables; some examples of stars being discussed are EB V0626 Sco and V0775 Cen, BC Gru; RR Sco, QZ Car, Theta Aps, WZ Sgr, RZ Vel, DI Car, SN1987A.There will also be additional presentations in poster papers available for discussion in the break sessions.

As well as the presentations at this event there is the opportunity for you to meet and discuss informally issues and techniques with practioners in their field.

The VSS Symposium is being held in conjunction with the Australian NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) Conference. For the VSS Programme go to www.nacaa.org.au select the 2016 tab, then go to the LHS - Programme - Friday. The NACAA programme on Saturday and Sunday is also detailed on the website, along with full information on the Conference.

-- Alan Baldwin.

8. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

9. The Most Distant Solar System Planet Found (so far)

An ultra-deep sky survey has turned up a sizable object situated 15 billion km from the Sun - more distant than any known solar-system object currently visible.

It was found in a pair of images taken 5½-hours apart with Japan's 8- meter Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on October 13. Designated V774104 by its discoverers, it lies 103 a.u. away in the direction of west-central Pisces - that's about 15.4 billion km. (1 a.u. is Earth's distance from the sun.) The object's apparent movement in the 5½-hour interval gave a first measure of its extraordinary distance. The movement was not due to the object's own motion but to the movement of the Earth over that time. An object around 100 a.u. away will shift about 1.3 arcseconds per hour, so is easily detected in a few hours.

V774104 is so distant that it will take another year of study to determine its orbit. All that is currently known its distance. Given its brightness - just 24th magnitude - and assuming that its surface is 15% reflective, the object might be 500 km across.

Dynamicists will be eager to learn what kind of orbit V774104 occupies. A highly eccentric track would mean that it periodically swings much closer to the Sun. That's the case with Eris, which likely got flung into its 558-year-long orbit after a gravitational encounter with Neptune eons ago.

But if the orbit is more circular, or if V774104 was found near perihelion, then it's completely decoupled from the massive planets - and that will cause dynamicists to question how it got out there. Two other distant objects, Sedna and 2012 VP113, are also in this kind of orbital limbo. There's no consensus on why they're out there; possible causes run the gamut from gravitational stirring of the even more distant Oort Cloud by a close-passing star to the presence of an undiscovered massive planet far beyond the orbit of Neptune. Or they might be the first-found members of the inner Oort Cloud.

Observed Solar System objects that periodically become more distant than 103 AU from the Sun include Sedna (which is similar or modestly larger in size), 2000 CR105, 2012 DR30, 2013 BL76, and 2005 VX3. There are 589 known objects that have aphelia more than 103 AU from the Sun.[14] This distance is about double the outer limit of the torus- shaped Kuiper Belt that lies outside Neptune's orbit. Far beyond this region is the vast spherical Oort cloud enshrouding the Solar System, whose presence was deduced from the orbits of long-period comets.

See Kelly Beatty's article and images on Sky & Telescope's webpage at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/v774104-most-distant-solar-system-object-11212015/See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V774104

-- Mostly abridged from Kelly Beatty's note. The last paragraph is from Wikipedia.

10. Closest Potentially Habitable Exo-Planet (so far)

A potentially habitable planet has been found orbiting the relatively nearby red dwarf star Wolf 1061. The star is 14 light years away. The planet is one of three orbiting Wolf 1061. They were found by a team from the University of New South Wales led by New Zealander Duncan Wright, a Canterbury University astronomy graduate.

The three newly detected planets orbit the small, relatively cool M- type star about every five, 18 and 67 days. Their masses are at minimum 1.4, 4.3 and 5.2 times that of Earth, respectively. All three are thought to be rocky like the Earth or Venus, rather than gaseous like Neptune, due to their estimated mass and radius. Of the three planets, one is too close to the star and hence too hot for life, and the other is too far out, and hence too cold. The middle planet could be just right.

That planet, Wolf 1061c, orbits the star every 18 days at a distance about 10 per cent of Earth's orbit of the sun. However, the red dwarf star is substantially cooler than the sun, about 3300 Kelvin compared with the sun's surface temperature of about 5800 Kelvin.

Given how close the planet is to the star it is likely to be 'tidally locked'. This means that one hemisphere of the planet will always face towards the star, much like one side of the moon always faces Earth. This makes one side of the planet hot and the other side cool. Dr Wright said that atmospheric modelling shows that heat can circulate around such a planet, albeit producing very high winds across the permanent twilight zone between the two sides.

Dr Wright's team used the Doppler method to detect the planets. As the planets orbit the star it moves around the centre of mass of the system. These small movements create a Doppler shift in the star's light making it slightly bluer or redder as the star moves towards us or away from us.

By measuring the nature of this wobble from the star's light, scientists are able to get a very accurate picture of what is causing this movement. They are able to tell the number of objects, their distance from the star, as well as their estimated mass and orbital period.

The team used observations of Wolf 1061 collected by the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory's 3.6 metre telescope in La Silla, Chile. It can measure star velocities to about a one metre per second precision.

The next step will be to look for transits of the planets in front of the star. The small dip in light caused by the planets passing in front of the star will allow scientists to find out more about this planetary system.

"The close proximity of the planets around Wolf 1061 means there is a good chance these planets may pass across the face of the star. If they do, then it may be possible to study the atmospheres of these planets in future to see whether they would be conducive to life," said team member Rob Wittenmyer.

Dr Wright is keen for this discovery to have some galactic perspective. "There is somewhere in the vicinity of 100 billion stars in our galaxy," he said. "We know that half of those stars are red dwarf stars, like Wolf 1061. From observations made by the Kepler space telescope, we also know that half of those stars are expected to have multiple rocky planets orbiting them.

"So if you consider our find in that context we are talking about billions and billions of rocky planets in our galaxy alone. And of course we know of more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe."

See the original article by Marcus Strom with graphics and links at http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/australia/75209794/scientists-find-closest-potentially-habitable-planet-to-earth--just-14-light-years-away

11. Aliens in Globs?

Globular star clusters are extraordinary in almost every way. They´re densely packed, holding a million stars in a ball only about 100 light- years across on average. They´re old, dating back almost to the birth of the Milky Way. And according to new research, they also could be extraordinarily good places to look for space-faring civilizations.

"A globular cluster might be the first place in which intelligent life is identified in our galaxy," says lead author Rosanne Di Stefano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Di Stefano presented this research in early January in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Our Milky Way galaxy hosts about 150 globular clusters, most of them orbiting in the galactic outskirts. They formed about 10 billion years ago on average. As a result, their stars contain fewer of the heavy elements needed to construct planets, since those elements (like iron and silicon) must be created in earlier generations of stars. Some scientists have argued that this makes globular cluster stars less likely to host planets. In fact, only one planet has been found in a globular cluster to date.

However, Di Stefano and her colleague Alak Ray (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai) argue that this view is too pessimistic. Exoplanets have been found around stars only one-tenth as metal-rich as our Sun. And while Jupiter-sized planets are found preferentially around stars containing higher levels of heavy elements, research finds that smaller, Earth-sized planets show no such preference. So it is premature to say there are no planets in globular clusters.

Another concern is that a globular cluster´s crowded environment would threaten any planets that do form. A neighbouring star could wander too close and gravitationally disrupt a planetary system, flinging worlds into icy interstellar space.

However, a star´s habitable zone -- the distance at which a planet would be warm enough for liquid water -- varies depending on the star. While brighter stars have more distant habitable zones, planets orbiting dimmer stars would have to huddle much closer. Brighter stars also live shorter lives, and since globular clusters are old, those stars have died out. The predominant stars in globular clusters are faint, long-lived red dwarfs. Any potentially habitable planets they host would orbit nearby and be relatively safe from stellar interactions.

So if habitable planets can form in globular clusters and survive for billions of years then there is ample time for life to become increasingly complex, and even potentially develop intelligence.

Such a civilization would enjoy a very different environment than our own. The nearest star to our solar system is four light-years away or about 40 million million km. In contrast, the nearest star within a globular cluster could be about 20 times closer -- just 2000 billion km away. This would make interstellar communication and exploration significantly easier.

"We call it the `globular cluster opportunity,´" says Di Stefano. "Sending a broadcast between the stars wouldn´t take any longer than a letter from the U.S. to Europe in the 18th century."

"Interstellar travel would take less time too. The Voyager probes are 100 billion miles from Earth, or one-tenth as far as it would take to reach the closest star if we lived in a globular cluster. That means sending an interstellar probe is something a civilization at our technological level could do in a globular cluster," she adds.

The closest globular cluster to Earth is still several thousand light- years away, making it difficult to find planets, particularly in a cluster´s crowded core. But it could be possible to detect transiting planets on the outskirts of globular clusters. Astronomers might even spot free-floating planets through gravitational lensing, in which the planet´s gravity magnifies light from a background star.

A more intriguing idea might be to target globular clusters with SETI search methods, looking for radio or laser broadcasts. The concept has a long history: In 1974 astronomer Frank Drake used the Arecibo radio telescope to broadcast the first deliberate message from Earth to outer space. It was directed at the globular cluster Messier 13 (M13).

For the original text and images see https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2016-01

-- From a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Time's Pick of Most Beautiful Space Photos

For a collection of superb photos of all kinds of objects, taken with many different technologies, see: http://time.com/3644785/space-most-beautiful-photos-2014/

-- Thanks to Peter Hogg for passing along the link.

13. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories

Peter Aldous, Geraldine, South Canterbury, writes: I am offering for sale my 12-foot dome with the following accessories for $4,500. The accessories include Digital Dome works dome automation package (original cost $2940); AAG cloud sensor ($746); shutter motor ($897); power supply ($166); four electric motors ($1794). The total value of accessories is $6543.

Contact Peter Aldous <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> ; phone 03 693 7337.

14. NZ's First Professional Telescope Maker

Wayne Orchiston writes:-

The following research paper has just been published, and will be of interest to some NZ astronomers: Orchiston, W., Romick, C., and Brown, P., 2015. James Henry Marriott: New Zealand's first professional telescope-maker. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 18, 261-276.

Copies can be downloaded free of charge from the ADS web site or the web site of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand. Alternatively, if you email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) I can forward you a pdf copy.

Professor Wayne Orchiston National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

15. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History

Wayne Orchiston adds:-

Springer has just published the following book Orchiston, W., 2016. Exploring the History of New Zealand Astronomy: Trials, Tribulations, Telescopes and Transits. Pp. xlv + 688, 397 illustrations.

This book spans the period from the Maori settlement of Aotearao/New Zealand, through to about 1960. As well as dealing with Maori astronomy and the nautical astronomy associated with Cook´s three voyages, it identifies Wellington´s first European astronomers and New Zealand´s oldest surviving astronomical observatory, and discusses the emergence of professional astronomy in New Zealand, historically- significant telescopes now in New Zealand, the 1874 and 1882 transits of Venus, the 1885 total solar eclipse, some of the nation´s leading amateur astronomers and telescope-makers (e.g. John Grigg, Ronald McIntosh, Joseph Ward and C.J. Westland), and pioneering efforts in radio astronomy during the 1940s.

details of how to access the discount price. ----------

For an advance copy of the book's flyer, with price and discount details -- a 2.8 MB PDF -- email Ed. Address at end of Newsletter.

16. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

19. Quotes

"Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars." -- Sir James Jeans.

"In the beginning there was nothing. God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it much better." -- Ellen DeGeneres.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand